Our National History in a Nutshell!
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
The Torah reading on Tisha B’av is from Parshat Va’etchanan. The Torah prophesizes how in the future the Jewish nation will become corrupt, get involved in Idol Worship, and do negative things in the eyes of God. The nation will be exiled, become scattered among the world nations, and remain few in number. The verses then describe how the scattered Jews will serve (or, according to Rashi, be considered to be serving) foreign gods. The nation will then return to the Lord their God, and their Merciful God will not destroy them or forget His covenant with their forefathers.
This synopsis is read on Tisha B’av to remind us of our national history. We mourn over the causes of our national suffering and exiles as well as deeply contemplate our own perpetuation of the negativity that results in our suffering and exile. We then realize that there is hope and that we have not been permanently abandoned by God. We can return, we can become more upright, our true faith in God alone can be restored. When we do so, God will welcome us into His embrace with open arms.
There is something remarkable about this prophecy of the Torah. Our process involves abandoning our religion, being scattered throughout the world, being persecuted, and remaining a tiny population. Historians list this combination of factors as the perfect storm for a culture to be completely forgotten over time. We were indeed exiled, scattered, and persecuted for over 2,000 years, and yet, our nation survives. We make up such a miniscule percentage of the world population, but we exist and continue to thrive. The irrational prophecy of our national history has, Indeed, been fulfilled.
Our nation will supernaturally always continue to exist. The only question is: Who will remain part of the nation and who will assimilate and lose their national identity? Friends, let us use this Tisha B’av to return to true faith in God and to fulfill the upright and ethical behavior dictated by our Torah. As we are all aware, many of our brethren are at risk of losing their connection with the Jewish people. Let us assist and encourage them to bind themselves to the national destiny of the Jewish people.