THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT VAYECHI 5779

BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER

 

This past Tuesday, Jews all over the world fasted, mourned and prayed, remembering the day – the 10th of Tevet in the Jewish calendar - on which began the siege of Jerusalem by the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar. This led to the conquest of the city, the destruction of the Holy Temple, and the expulsion of Bnei Yisrael from their land.

 

With the Grace of HaShem, we now have our own State of Israel, with so much to be thankful for. But are we allowed to be complacent? Could history – Chalila - repeat itself? The Talmud describes how, instead of uniting against the common enemy, Jewish factions battled each other in besieged Jerusalem. "Because of baseless hatred among Jews," concludes the Talmud, "was Jerusalem destroyed."

 

Why does the Talmud insist that the hate was "baseless"? Were there not reasons, both ideological and pragmatic, for the divisions amongst the Jews? Chazal explain that no reason is reason enough for hate. The commonality of our fate runs so much deeper than any possible cause for animosity. All hate, then, is baseless hatred.

 

And if "baseless hatred" was the cause of the destruction, its remedy is "baseless love" - our rediscovery of the intrinsic unity which overrides all reasons for discord and strife.

 

Looking closely at the Blessings that Yakov bestows on his children, one common theme is his encouragement of brotherly and family love, and his rebuke of individualistic actions for self-gain. We see this so clearly when Yakov blesses his grandchildren, Menashe and Ephraim, with a Bracha which to this day is used by Jewish parents to bless their children and grandchildren.

 

Not so long ago, the local elections brought out the worst in our much-too-political society. We were bombarded by slogans, promises, electioneering, and even “Rabbinical Dictates”. Worst of all, we were exposed to dire warnings of the dangers of voting for the other parties. The general election looms all too close and I shudder to think how we will survive another period of mud-slinging so soon after the local elections.

 

Make no mistake. Israel is still under siege. We should be uniting, not dividing. We should be showing love to our fellow Jew, not criticism and hate.

 

If there is one redeeming virtue in being under siege, it is the opportunity to realise that we're all in this together. Too often in our history, the failure to internalise that simple fact has had disastrous effects. For this alone, the Fast Days are valuable.

 

Political debate is both necessary and educational. Let us hope and pray that in the future, most of our prospective candidates leave personal attacks out of the equation.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaim fachler