Friday, July 16, 2010


4 Menahem Av, 5770
Shabbat Hazon – The Shabbat of Vision
Parshat Devarim
We have a long memory (deservedly) when it comes to those who have persecuted us over the centuries. It is perhaps harder to remember, though, when we have brought suffering upon ourselves.

Our people revolted against the Romans in 66 C.E., but the era was beset as much by internal Jewish strife as it was with conflict against the Romans. The civil situation had deteriorated such that Jews assassinated others in the streets of Jerusalem. When the Romans finally recaptured Jerusalem in 70 C.E., it meant the destruction of our way of life up that point.
Our Rabbis ask the question of why it happened, why the Temple was destroyed. And the surprising answer they find is that our leadership lacked vision.
Our own story of the destruction begins with a man who is publicly and deeply embarrassed by his enemy, a la Romeo and Juliet’s Tybalt. At the silence of our rabbis in the face of his shame, he vows to destroy their leadership (for the full story go to wikipedia).

As he puts his plan into action, one rabbi, Rabbi Zekhariah ben Avkoles, prevents his colleagues from responding at all, for good or for ill. The great teacher, Rabbi Yohanan, comments bitterly that it was because of Rabbi Zekhariah’s great humility that the Temple was burned, Jerusalem destroyed, and our people sent into exile (Talmud Gittin 56a).

There is a mitzvah of vision – a commandment to see forward. In the face of impossible options, there is a mitzvah to find a third way.

But this mitzvah does not devolve upon an individual alone, rather an entire community. In the inevitable times when tension and strife arise, in the times when we act against our own best interest, in the times when we are on the verge of destroying ourselves, people must step forward with the option that lies between impossibilities, to find the solution that no one has yet seen. And for all the rest of us, our mitzvah must be the courage to listen to those with courageous vision.

No comments:

Post a Comment