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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Seven Weeks of Condolence

The True Consolation

Without a doubt, the most severe of the many negative effects resulting from Israel's loss of independence was a sense of national inferiority. This feeling gave rise to a desire to mimic the behavior of the nations and to adopt their viewpoints.
Dedicated to the memory of
Yaakov Ben Behora
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"Israel was stricken twofold and they will be comforted twofold." (The Midrash) Without a doubt the most severe of the many negative effects resulting from Israel's loss of homeland and independence was a sense of national inferiority. This feeling gave rise to a desire to mimic the behavior of the nations and to adopt their viewpoints and opinions. In the words of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (the Rambam): "When wicked members of the nations destroyed our goodness, our wisdom and our literary treasures; when they assassinated so many of our sages that we were driven to a state of ignorance... then their viewpoints, demeanor and actions were adopted by us. And just as it is written with regard to imitating actions that 'they became mixed among the nations and learned from their actions' - so is it written regarding the adoption of foolish viewpoints, 'they pleased themselves with the "children" of strangers' (Guide to the Perplexed)."

The result was that Jews lost interest altogether in seeking out a uniquely Jewish thought process. And even if by chance one were to stumble upon such a process, it was either ignored or quickly swept under the rug.

One of the more important Jewish traits - a trait which was weakened as a result of the influence of the nations - is the instinctive faith in a Creator and Overseer of the universe. The Jewish people are, in the words of the sages, "faithful believers, and the offspring of faithful believers." In contradistinction, "All non-Jews forget God."

The nations' forgetfulness regarding the Almighty is not the fruit of modern times (though some mistakenly believe this to be the case); ancient Greek philosophy already viewed heresy as an advanced form of thinking. Surprisingly, however, we find that the Judaism of the same era, despite its familiarity with Greek culture, chose to ignore entirely the sorts of theological problems which the Greeks raised; Judaism flatly refused to employ similar methods - even for the purpose of a counterattack. Judaism does not posses a philosophical tract dealing with religious skepticism. And if we do find something along these lines it exists in Philo who hailed from Alexandria in Egypt. The independent Jew, nurtured in independent Israel, was a religious believer by his very nature. He could only be perplexed by the speculative web within which the Gentile world was helplessly tangled. For him, the very question did not exist. Hence he was free from any sense of a need to respond. And while the experiences of Abaye and Rabba as recorded in the Talmud constituted the foundation of entire world of Jewish thought, and all attendant difficulties, interpretations, and details were milled and ground in the study halls of Israel and Babylon, still, the point of departure for all of this mental exertion (an exertion which possesses no counterpart in world literature, whether in depth or breadth) is the Torah. - and the most basic underlying principle of the Torah is: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Our consolation, then, will also be twofold in nature. But it will only come if together with our physical rebirth as a nation we return to the source of our existence; only if we free ourselves from the chains of European culture and thought in which, lacking any sense of self-worth, we have tied ourself.

The complete consolation will only arrive when we learn how to restore faith as our purest and most natural sense, when we understand that these notions of forgetting God so common to Europe are the continuation and outgrowth of an earlier, more ancient tendency. Only then will the true consolation arrive.

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