Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The High Holidays
To dedicate this lesson

Days Of Judgment


Rabbi Berel Wein

It is interesting to note that some of our leading pundits and politicians have chosen to phrase the current United Nations meeting in New York as being "days of judgment" for Israel. The real Days of Judgment also coincide with this period of time. Everyone is in such a dither over the Palestinian diplomatic gambit that is being played out in New York that the true Days of Judgment play almost no role in the Jewish public discourse. Of course we have to attempt to mitigate the damage that we continue to suffer from the United Nations and the world’s half century tilt against Israel and the Jewish people. However unless we deal with our own days of judgment there will be little chance for ultimate success in all of our efforts. This article is not meant to be the usual exhortation to repentance and observance as the High Holy Days approach, important and accurate as such an attitude is. I mean that we are being judged not by what the world thinks of us - it has never been a friendly or understanding place for Jews, Judaism and the State of Israel - but by the attitude of many Jews themselves towards Judaism, Jews and the State of Israel. For too long many Jews and Jewish organizations have acted and spoken without taking into account that by carving a hole under their own seat in the boat they endanger the entire Jewish nation. The prophet Jonah was willing to be cast overboard into the raging sea so that innocent lives of others - incidentally, lives of non-Jews - should not be jeopardized by his actions on the boat. The anti-Israel Jews have a complete lack of judgment on their part as to the consequences of their words, articles and organizations.

It has often been said and quite truly that there are Jews who are only secondary Jews.
By this I mean that Jewish concerns and what the effect of their behavior on Jews as a whole will be are not primary ideas in their thinking and behavior. Thus Communist Jews were Communists first and Jews at best second. Zionist Jews were Zionists first and Jews second. Fanatical Jews are fanatics first - pick whatever stream of fanaticism you wish in the spectrum of Jewish life - and Jews second. Liberal Jews are liberal first and Jews second. As long as Jewish concerns are at most secondary to a large number of Jews we are in danger of our boat not surviving the rough seas that we find ourselves embroiled in. Jewish money is squandered in the millions in support of those who state clearly and openly that their purpose and goal is to destroy us. Where is the judgment, the clear unbiased thinking in such policies and organizations and funders? What happened to common sense and Jewish solidarity? This lack of judgment in matters that we can control - our own behavior and policies - speaks volumes and points to matters that constantly occur that we cannot control or even anticipate. Many Jews who tragically do not believe in the concept of Heavenly judgment therefore lose all rational human judgment in understanding the effect their words and deeds have upon the survival and continued welfare of the Jewish people. Bad judgment makes for a bad future.

The task of the High Holy Days was and is to create an atmosphere for the individual Jew and for the nation as a whole that allowed for clear thinking and wise judgment. Introspection is certainly a necessary ingredient in creating this atmosphere. However a sense of vision and responsibility is also just as necessary. The wise man, the person of balanced judgment, the rabbis taught us, sees the future, the consequences of behavior from afar. Abraham and Isaac are described in the Torah as being able to see the Heavenly cloud engulfing Mount Moriah from afar. There is no substitute for seeing things from afar if one wishes to gain measured and astute judgment. Not only seeing things from afar but seeing in a far sighted fashion is vital. The necessity for patience, strength, self-worth and self-belief to bring about intelligent judgment and wise regard for events and statements should be obvious to all. But sadly it is often lacking in our media, political leadership and even in our religious leaders. Realizing that history and destiny, let alone Heaven itself, will come to its own judgment regarding our attitudes and behavior can help us impose on ourselves a necessary guide to our own judgments and policies.
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