Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Behar
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated to the full recovery of

Yehudah ben Hadasah Hinde Malka

The Big Jewish Af?

We thank Hashem that we personally have found solace and refuge in our true home and hope that the entire nation in exile will move from the exile to Eretz Yisrael.


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Iyar 5767
This week, in between Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, we will follow two of modern times’ most important commentaries to distant places along with the Jewish people. One is Rav Meir Simcha of D’vinsk, who wrote almost prophetic words decades before the perpetrators of the holocaust of European Jewry raised their ugly heads. The other is Prof. Nechama Leibowitz, whose scholarship preceded the important revolution in women’s Jewish education. We do not intend to teach anything new but to recall where we were and how much we should thank Hashem for the tremendous change in Am Yisrael’s status through the establishment of the State of Israel and the victory in the 6-Day War.

This week we read of the wonderful, yet hard to read, promise. At the time, it was a great promise toward the future, and its fulfillment is uplifting in regard to historical retrospection. "Even (Af) with all this [the curses], when they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not be disgusted with them or spit them up to destroy them to profane my covenant with them" (Vayikra 26:44).

This phenomenon has no precedent in the history of the nations. There is no record of a nation that was exiled, suffered so much that it appeared that Hashem had been disgusted by it, and yet survived as a nation. No nation has survived even hundreds of years; we have survived 2,700 since most of our nation was exiled from the Shomron. As we say in Hallel: "This was from Hashem, it is wondrous in our eyes" (Tehillim 118:23). We may add: It was promised by Hashem; therefore, it is not surprising in our eyes.

Prof. Leibowitz says the following on the aforementioned pasuk from our parasha: "This pasuk was comfort for Jews in their lands of exile. It is told of Kaiser Friedrich (15th century), who respected and protected Jews, that he was astounded by the incredible prophecy of Jewish survival... which Moshe foresaw... The historian, Graetz used to say that Jews have great protection by the great af (play on words, as it means ‘even’ and ‘nose’)."

The Meshech Chochma explains three factors through which this miracle is accomplished: 1) The leadership of Avraham, Yaakov, and Yosef engrained in future generations of the exiled the basic value to yearn for Eretz Yisrael. 2) Chazal made rabbinic prohibitions to reduce social contact with the non-Jewish host populations. 3) Hashem moved the people periodically from place to place so that they would not become overly comfortable in any place. In the context of the danger of being too comfortable in others’ lands, the Meshech Chochma wrote powerfully of the moral danger of reaching the point where one thinks that "Berlin is Jerusalem." He continued that if this happens, a great tempest will come and teach the Jewish People that it is not their home or culture.

We thank Hashem that we personally have found solace and refuge in our true home and hope that the entire nation in exile will move from the exile to Eretz Yisrael.
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