Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Chayei Sara
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher ben Chaim



Rabbi Berel Wein

One of the more amazing predictions regarding the Jewish people that appears in the Torah is that numerically speaking we will always be a small nation. That certainly has been the case over our long history. At the time of the destruction of the Second Temple the Chinese were twice our numbers. Almost two millennia later the Chinese are approximately one hundred times our numbers.

In 1939 on the eve of World War II there were nineteen million Jews in the world. Today, seventy years later, we are at least four million under that number. There should be, simply by natural growth, sixty million Jews in the world but there is not nearly that number extant. This has been the price of what the modern world has inflicted upon us - from the Holocaust and its attendant generational impact, assimilation, intermarriage, the reduction of marriage and family which are viewed as subservient to other so-called life values, a very diminished birth rate outside of the Orthodox community, a general tendency to avoid marriage or to marry later in life, and the accepted practices and lifestyles of homosexuality.

All of this means that there are less Jews and less Jews means a weakening of Judaism and Judaic values. Tragically many Jews are more interested in saving the planet (whatever that may mean) than in creating a family themselves and insuring Jewish survival for the future.

Karl Marx, the apostate self-hating Jew, wrote a vicious anti-Semitic pamphlet entitled "A World Without Jews." He predicted that such a world would be utopia incarnate. Unfortunately much of the world, including a significant number of Jews as well, took him seriously.

We read in the Torah and Midrash that immediately after the near death of Isaac, Abraham immediately concentrates on finding a proper mate for Isaac – to marry him off and thus produce the continuity of Abraham’s great ideals and message for humanity. Ideals and ideas are wonderful but in the abstract they eventually lose sway. Only people, real live human beings, can propagate and translate noble thoughts into practical human behavior.

Without Isaac marrying and having children, Abraham fears that the time and events will bury his hopes and accomplishments. There will be no one who will continue to raise his banner and proclaim monotheism and morality in a world that is always on the brink of depraved and violent behavior, paganism, and distorted ideals and values.

I thought that after the Holocaust the Jewish world would also think in that fashion. The greatest tribute to the memory of our martyrs and the ultimate revenge upon those that murdered them is a Jewish people risen from the ashes and numerically and spiritually and physically stronger than before.

The State of Israel has accomplished some of these goals but in terms of our numbers we are woefully deficient. Modern society scoffs at those who have large families and our superior intellectuals look down at them from their self-proclaimed lofty perches with disdain and contempt. This attitude is self-destructive to all true Jewish interests and to our future survival.

When I was a rabbi in Miami Beach forty years ago the great sainted Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kaheneman, the Ponivezher Rav, visited our community for a few months in the winter to raise funds for his yeshiva, orphan homes and other projects. I had the great privilege of becoming close to him.

One day he called me and asked me to arrange a meeting in my home with all of the younger couples affiliated with my congregation. I told him that I would do so but I cautioned him that I did not think that he would raise much money from them, what with their tuition and household expense struggles. He gently told me that he was not going to speak to them about money or donations at all.

At that meeting which was very well attended, since I assured everyone that no requests for donations would take place, he arose and said to them: "My beloved children, the souls of a million and a half Jewish children under the age of twelve who were murdered in the Holocaust, are floating in the air above us. Our task is to give those souls bodies to live within. You are the only ones that can provide those bodies." As he sat down after his few words, the shock in the room was palpable.

But that year twenty children were born into our community. Many of those children are even grandparents today. Without Jews there is no Judaism. That is the message of Abraham and Isaac, Sarah and Rebecca to us as well today.
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