Sunday, May 4, 2014

Minority Report


This report is about a minority of people who serve G-d. However, I will talk about a minority within the minority.
Let’s start from Abraham. He was one single person who “discovered” the Creator, and the natural conclusion of this discovery was a passionate desire to serve Him. The other desire, which I would say was an equally natural longing, was to share his discovery and the joy he derived from it, with others.
Avraham Avinu proclaimed the Name of G-d everywhere, and to everybody on his way. He and his wife Sarah were leaders of a movement of people who were attracted by them to follow the path of faith and morality. These are the neshumois – the souls which were born in Haran, as the Torah describes and Chazal – the sages of blessed memory explain.
But by the next generation, almost no one was left from this group of believers. Yitzchok didn’t have any coreligionists around him. Yaakov realized by means of prophecy and intelect that a community model for a society of believers would not work. The only means he had of carrying on the belief in Hashem, and receiving any revelations in the future, would be through the merits of his own family - the children of Yisrael.
Only a family like his would be able to survive against all adversities, against all the hate from people who were already accustomed to immoral ways of life. Only his family would have the spiritual strength to overcome the challenges of a world that chose the domination of carnality over the spirit.
But a family is diverse. It can have members of very different moral standing. Such was the case in the family of Yaakov. In order to win humanity back to the service of G-d, first this nation had to be won for Torah. This battle still persists today.
For most of Jewish history, it was only a minority of Jews – Sheairis Yisroel - who understood their mission and devoted every filament of their time, and every fiber of their being, to this service.
What about the rest of the Jewish family? Well, sometimes they're supportive, sometimes they're opposing, sometimes they're even openly persecuting. But most of the time, the children of Yisroel are simply unaware of the great significance and the awesome privilege of being a Jew.
Cheit HaAigel – The sin of the golden calf - was only the beginning of a long history of iniquity perpetrated by the Chosen Nation in opposition to the Torah. Rav Hirsch, and if I remember correctly also Rav Yehuda Halevi, uses Jewish resistance to the Heavenly teachings as proof for all the people who deny the G-dly character of Sinaic revelation. He writes that it had to take generations of contrition to elevate this nation to Torah’s standards; that it was not the Jewish people who ‘invented’ Torah, but Torah that invented and created the Jewish People. If, in fact, the Jews had conceived the Torah, why would they then so repetitively and obstinately reject their own creation?
Meanwhile, from the time when the children of Yaakov entered the Promised Land, their allegiance to the high standards required by Torah remained irresolute. The time of Shoftim – Judges - is described as “when everybody did as his heart told him to do.”
Then, subsequent to the era of Shoftim, we had three generations of flourishing Judaism under the leadership of kings Shaul, Duvid and Shlomo. After that, neither kings nor their subjects “Did what was good in the eyes of the Almighty.” For some 400 years there were only two kings who wholeheartedly served Hashem, and only one of those two was able to persuade his people to accept this Avoida – service of G-d.
Chizkiyuhi, according to Talmud, achieved such a high level of divinity that he had the potential to become Mashiach. But the world was not yet ready for redemption.
For most of the time of Judges and Kings, only a minority of Yidden came to the level of devotion which was prescribed for the entire nation. These were called “Bnai Nuviim – sons of Prophets.” The members of the Havuros – societies of faithful Jews, were often persecuted by their very own Jewish governments.
In this group we may surely include the “seven thousand faithful who did not bow to the Baal” in the time before Eliahu Hanuvi left this earthly realm. During the period when Torah was lost and Yiddishkeit was forgotten in the capital of the country – Yerushalayim, when only one neglected scroll lay covered in the dust of time, somewhere in the basement of the Bais Hamikdash, these were the committed folk who gathered in small groups, in towns, hamlets and even deserts, carrying the treasure of Torah in their learning, deeds and hearts.
The Churban was a lesson for our people. When we returned from Buvel – Babylonia – we were a changed people, but not free of the desires which continuously led us astray from the proper path.
In the interim, the government was largely dependent on empires that rose and fell in rapid succession. Jewish political elites were felled under the influence of unfamiliar cultures and foreign religions. Menelaos and Jason asked the Greeks to Hellenize the nation over which they supposedly reigned. Again, it was only one family of Hashmonuim – so called Maccabees that openly opposed the Misyavnim – the assimilators. But there were thousands of others who joined them and fought for Torah. And there were thousands more, hiding in remote places, who held the banner of Torah high even though they chose to wait and withdrew rather than move forward and fight. These were the first people ever to be called Hasidim.
It would be difficult for any Jew to describe the persecution of our holy leaders and committed Torah adherents, by the descendent of Hashmonuim - Alexander Yannay. Cruel and bloody tortures were used against the Perushim – Pharisees, to derail them from the path of Truth. But to no avail. Once again, the minority remained firm and faithful in the face of the majority.
More than two thousand years have since passed. Sometimes we came closer to the ideal paradigm of who and what we were intended to be, and in some instances we drifted father away from that exemplar. But one thing we should remember: Even among our own people, those who abided by the Torah and remained faithful to Hashem’s requirements were never the mainstream. The ‘Principle of Majority” applies only to Talmidei Chachumim - our spiritual leaders.

Matys Weiser

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