Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Simha bat Hana

32. Israel's Plight in the Exile

The difference between Israel's faith and that of other nations is like the difference between an actual person and a statue. Nations have sought to imitate the faith of Israel yet have been unable to achieve any more than a superficial resemblance.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Even when the Jewish people are at their lowest spiritual ebb or in the midst of the most trying spiritual hardships, they are immeasurably superior religiously and spiritually to the other nations. Even in exile, without the Temple, like a body without heart and head – worse, like dry bones wasting away in the cemetery – even in such a disparaging state, spiritually, the Jewish people remain incomparably superior to the rest of the nations. For, despite it all, these rotten bones retain a modicum of viable spirituality from the glorious past, when the nation of Israel resided in its land and the Temple stood on its mount in full splendor. This small measure of spiritual force that remains is destined to come to life completely in the future.

This, however, is not true of other nations. They have never been infused with the true light of faith in the God of Israel - the eternal God of creation.

The difference between Israel's faith and that of other nations is like the difference between an actual person and a statue. True, a highly skilled artist can carve and paint a statue so that it looks like an actual living human being, to the point where the untrained eye cannot discern between it and an actual person. A truly talented artist is capable of fashioning all of the body parts including the face with its eyes, ears, nose and mouth. He can even make an expression of joy on the face of the statue so that it appears to be happy. It would be difficult for an observer to tell if it is a statue or a real person unless he were to approach and touch it. After realizing the truth, he would say, "Wow, it looks so much like a real person even though it is not." Even though on the outside everything appears to be identical, in truth everything is different. One is endowed with a living soul while the other is not. There is a great divide between them, and there is no grounds for comparison.

Nations which sought to imitate the faith of Israel were unable to achieve any more than a superficial resemblance. Their religions are imitation, not the real thing. Externally they possess some resemblance, but the essence is lacking. They established houses of worship yet no Divine acknowledgment was revealed therein. Followers practiced abstinence and asceticism in the hopes of experiencing prophetic revelation, but without success. God expressed neither favor nor disfavor. If they behaved corruptly and sinned, no fire descended upon them from above. Neither were they struck by a sudden plague indicating Divine punishment.

This was not the case, however, with the people of Israel. The Divine Presence revealed itself before them, and they enjoyed prophecy, and when they sinned they were visited with supernatural retribution - the earth opened up and swallowed the iniquitous. All understood that the hand of God was at work and that He extends His Divine providence over Israel.

Any other nation, when its heart (i.e., the house of worship toward which its people direct their prayers) is struck, no significant change effects them. The Jewish people, however, are different. When their Holy Temple was destroyed, they too were ruined in all respects. Similarly, when the Temple is rebuilt, when the heart returns to its proper place and functions with full strength, the Jewish people will be healed. Israel's physical existence is inextricably bound up with its spiritual state. The historical events which befall the Jewish people make it clear that they are God's people. The Almighty does not reveal Himself to any other nation. The Jews, however, are God's own people and He guides them forward even until this very day.

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