Israel Forever

For the week ending 13 September 2003 / 16 Elul 5763

History Lessons

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Ignore history, it has been wisely said, and you are condemned to relive it.

Jews relearn their own history at the Seder table on Pesach eve by reciting the Hagadah which uses as its outline the first chapter in this weeks Torah reading. In the times of the Beit Hamikdash a Jew showed his appreciation of the heavenly gift of Eretz Yisrael by each year bringing bikkurim the first grains and fruits of his field to the kohen in the Sanctuary and making a declaration.

In this declaration he made it clear that Jewish history did not begin with statehood. He recalled the dangers faced by our Patriarchs and our suffering in Egyptian bondage, highlighting the fact that it was G-d who miraculously saved us from enemies in every generation who sought to destroy us. Only after this introduction did he mention that Hashem "brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey" for which he shows his gratitude by bringing the bikkurim.

This review of history is so important because there is a tragic secular tendency to view Jewish history as beginning and ending with statehood. The Jew who thinks about what he says on Pesach eve realizes that we were a people before we entered our promised land and we remained a people even after being expelled from it because of our sins. But, most of all, he takes to heart that it was not our power that made it possible for us to enjoy our land but rather that it was a gift from G-d.

If we learn these lessons of history we will be privileged not to be condemned to relive losing our land ever again.

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