Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Rock!

Parshat Haazinu uses an unusual name for God. It repeatedly refers to God as "The Rock" - צור. Now we do know this term from Sefer Shmuel, Yishayahu and Tehillim. We know about צור ישראל, מעוז צור, צורי ולא עולתה בו but from a quick flip through the Concordance, this would appear to be the ONLY instance in which this word comes up as a name of God in the whole Torah!

ד) הַצּוּר תָּמִים פָּעֳלוֹ כִּי כָל דְּרָכָיו מִשְׁפָּט
טו) וַיִּטֹּשׁ אֱלוֹהַּ עָשָׂהוּ וַיְנַבֵּל צוּר יְשֻׁעָתוֹ

יח) צוּר יְלָדְךָ תֶּשִׁי וַתִּשְׁכַּח אֵל מְחֹלְלֶךָ
ל') אִם לֹא כִּי צוּרָם מְכָרָם וַידֹוָד הִסְגִּירָם

לא) כִּי לֹא כְצוּרֵנוּ צוּרָם וְאֹיְבֵינוּ פְּלִילִים
לז) וְאָמַר אֵי אֱלֹהֵימוֹ צוּר חָסָיוּ בו
If you add (in passuk 13) וינקהו דבש מסלע ושמן מחלמיש צור you have it seven times - a nice leitwort!But what is it leading to?

Can anyone pitch in?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Kol Dodi Dofek at Fifty

A new trend is to create dicussion groups upon the anniversary of a particular seminal essay by Rav Soloveitchik. Now Tradition magazine have published their latest journal on (Hat-tip Hirhurim) Kol Dodi Dofek - Fifty Years Later!

Add this to ATID's discussion of Lonely Man of Faith.

And this fascinating discussion and debate of Confrontation at 40!

I am strongly opposed to asking the question, in relation to every contemporary issue, of "What might the Rav have said?" The Rav was the first person to demand that we rethink and reevaluate every new challenge. He would have loathed the arguing over his views and the lame following of his every action or statement.

And yet, I do believe that these discussions are positive and fruitful. Obviously Kol Dodi Dofek was bold in its theological discussion of Shoah and the State of Israel hence the need to re-evaluate as events and perspectives have changed. Likewise, Confrontation dealt with inter-religious dialogue. The online symposium attempts to ask the question to what degree Rav Soloveitchik's ideas are still current and relevant.

I look forward then to reading the latest discussion in Tradition.

Polls Apart!

Two polls caught my eyes in today's paper.

The first: Hizbullah inspires 63% of Palestinians
"According to the poll, which was conducted last week, nearly two-thirds of Palestinians (63%) agree that Palestinians should emulate Hizbullah by firing rockets at Israeli cities, compared to 35% who disagreed." (jpost)

The second: 67% of Israelis want talks with PA gov't including Hamas
"A majority of Israelis would support holding negotiations with a Palestinian unity government that includes the Islamic Hamas movement, according to the results of a joint Palestinian-Israeli poll released on Tuesday.Sixty-seven percent of Israeli respondents said such a step could be a necessary requisite for achieving a peace agreement with Palestinians." (Haaretz)

So 63% of Palestinians want to fight us and to destroy our country , but 67% of Israelis want to make peace with them notwithstanding their non-acceptance of the State of Israel, and their desire to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth!

Are we plain stupid, or just so hopelessly optimistic and peace loving?
It never ceases to amaze me how Peace orientated we are, and how war and armed struggle is so much a foundation of the Palestinian identity. (Have you ever heard of a Palestinian Shalom Achshav equivalent?)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shanna Tova

To all my friends, family, students and blog readers -
Wishing you a כתיבה וחתימה טובה
for a happy, peace filled, and healthy year.

Here is the shiur
And here are the pomegranate pickers!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fighting Islam?

In the wake of the Pope's statements, there have been some interesting pieces from a religious perspective.

Rav Yisrael Rosen (who is a firece polemicist, whatever he writes) calls for Jews to overlook the historic animosity of the Church and to join the Pope in fighting Islam:

"Islam is a religion that espouses violence, said the Pope, and he's right! We all know that all those who qualify the statement or condemn it – priests, world leaders, academicians etc. – are all scared of Islam's vengeful sword and of "pouring oil on the fire."

...I'm calling on all people of spirit and culture in the world, including rabbis, on free world media outlets, on those seeking democracy and human rights and on all those who seek life, to join the Pope's declaration and face the reality emerging before our very eyes. The Iranian genie is out of the bottle, the Afghan-Pakistani genie is hiding deep in its caves, the Hamas genie is growing stronger, and the sword of Islam will not stop at the Shaba Farms or the 1967 borders.

Despite all the calamities we have suffered at the hands of the Christian world during the years of our long exile, including Nazi anti-Semitism, which is a result of the Christian religion, I believe there is room to join forces with Christian leaders in order to fight the common enemy: Radical Islam. "

In conrast, Rav Yoe Bin Nun pens a fascinating (naive?) letter to the Islamic people calling for a meeting of minds and an understanding based upon our joint religious perspective.

And see My Obiter Dicta for an interesting and comprehensive piece.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Akeida. An Israeli Perspective. Rav Beni Lau.

BY HaRAV Dr. Binyamin Lau.

(From the book in memory of Yitzchak Hirschberg - Akeidat Yitzchak LeZaro. This speech was given by Rav Lau at an Erev Zikaron 2 years ago in memory of Yitzchak z"l)

In order to express the unique dilemma of "The Akeida from an Israeli perspective", I shall begin with a short story. This is an episode that I was involved in regarding a High-School student. Do not be overly concerned; I am not going to tell a story that relates to a real-life Akeida. This is not a case of a human death, but the story is nonetheless, a harsh one.

We're talking about a boy, a high-school student. Like many teenagers, there are conflicts with parents, teenage stuff, some wild behavior, music that isn't exactly his parents "cup of tea," arguments and the like - in short, a normal household. But the tensions grew and intensified, and one day, as the boy sat in his room with his friends listening to music, his mother walked in and made a comment. Then the boy turned to his friends and said: "Leave! You are not welcome in my parents' home." And the next sentence was: "If you are not welcome in my parents' home then I am also not welcome in my parents' home." The boy took some things from his closet and left the house.

A kid who slams the door is not a major tragedy. Little kids do this sometimes. Somebody infuriates them, and in response they leave, slamming the door behind them, as if they are furious with the entire world, but then they hide behind the door waiting for their mother to look for them. A child slightly older "runs away" to the end of the street, and so on.

So this boy went to sleep at a friend's house, and then next day he went from his friend's home to school. No one knew anything, his parents didn't call or search for him, and that night, the boy once again slept over at a friend. The friend wasn't aware that he was hosting a child who had run away from home, and the boy's parents still failed to call. Five days went past, and the boy's teacher began to realize that something was wrong. Maybe it was because of his clothing, maybe because he didn't have his schoolbooks, whatever; he realized that something was wrong and he took the boy aside for a chat. So it emerged that the boy had run away from home, but that "home" had not run after him! The teacher asked the boy: "Do you want me to call your parents?" "No! no! no!" the boy said, " I am going back home today." So, Baruch Hashem!

Indeed, the boy returns home. He knocks on the door.
- No reply!

He knocks louder and rings the doorbell and he hears voices in the house; his father, his mother, his sister. But the door is locked. He shouts: "Mom! Dad!. Let me in, please open up!"
- Nothing!

He goes outside and sees the bathroom window on the second floor, and he remembers himself, when he was younger, climbing through the window. So he begins to climb up the drainpipe, like when he was little. He begins climbing up and a neighbor who sees him shouts, "Thief!" And so, he runs away and makes his way to a public telephone to call home.

At home they pick up the phone. "Hello! Dad! It's me!" The phone goes dead. His father has put the phone down. In the middle of the night. The boy finds himself, pathetic, humiliated, confuse, on the doorstep of his teacher.

We shall not take the story further. Let us simply say that a deep wound was forged in that boy's consciousness. Who has ever heard of such a thing? That a parent should lock his child out of the house? There is a basic social, moral, human understanding that even if a child runs away from home, when he comes and pleads, "Dad! Open the door!" that the father will come and open it for his son. They will take him in. Maybe they will be angry at him, maybe they'll punish him, but one doesn't lock the door in the face of one's own child.


And from here, I move on to the story of the Akeida. I would like to offer a small chidush, a problem for which I do not at present have a solution, but possibly the chidush itself will provoke some thoughts…

When God turns to Avraham and says to him:

"Take your son, your only son, who you love, Isaac,"

he gives a comprehensive and explicit address for the command. "Your son", "The only one," "who you love," "Isaac."

In contrast, at the end of the Akeida the Divine Messenger the angel of God, calls to Abraham and says to him:

"Now I know that you fear God as you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me."

"Your son, your only son." Here the phrase "that you love" is absent. Something in the very nature of a human soul is crying out to heaven here. When a father picks up the slaughter knife to kill his son, he assails the very essence of the love relationship. Abraham is certainly God-fearing; but it is impossible to for love to coexist with the knife. It is a contradiction in terms!

The question here is that is so frightening is - What exactly does God want from us? God tests Avraham, he elevates him. But, in the final analysis, God does not want Avraham to slaughter his son. It is God who says: "Do not set forth your hand to the lad and do not do a thing to him," because that boy is mine too! And I do not what you to offer him as a sacrifice.

On Rosh Hashanna, we do not use the slaughter knife in order to sound the Terua blast! Instead, wee sound the ram's horn, the horn that was brought as a substitute for the sacrifice of a son. God is "Melech Chafetz BaChayim" – a king who desires life.


Three times in the course of the Akeida, the leitwort, the repetitive phrase, "Hineni" appears. "Hineni" in Hebrew is not a geographic marker, as if to point and say: "I am here." It denotes a state of mind, not a place. "Hineni" is the inner mindset of the individual who stands before someone else, someone who is charging him with a mission, saying: "My entire being is with you." This is the meaning of the word "Hineni," and it is the word "Hineni" that sets the tempo for the Akeida.

God addresses Avraham: "Avraham!" And he replied 'Hineni!'" Avraham's first Hineni comes to say to God (in the language of the contemporary Israeli car bumper stickers!) "Hakadosh Baruch Hu! We love You!" "I love You!;" and the implication of that is that I will do anything that You say. And then comes the command to take the boy, and they set out on their way.

…. On the way up to the mountain, Yitzchak turns to his father: "Father!" he says - and then for the second time – Avraham says, "Hineni b'ni" – "Hineni my son!" Avraham is torn between the two Hineni's. There are two loves here, the love of a father to his son, and the love of a person to his God. "Hineni" and "Hineni b'ni." To which voice does one respond? To the divine voice that says: "Take your son, your only son, who you love, " or to the voice that says: "Father! Father!"?

Avraham proceeds on his way up the mountain, and then he takes the knife. He still has not done anything to Isaac. But then, he hears a voice of an angel that calls to him: "Avraham, Avraham!" – twice! Which Avraham are you? That of "Hineni Hashem," or "Hineni B'ni?" Avraham has to make a choice. Avraham's response? – "Hineni!" This "Hineni" is directed towards the angel of God and not towards his son. And hence the angel says to him, "Do not send forth your hand against the lad and do nothing to him, for now I know etc." NOW I know, with the third Hineni, "That you fear God, as you did not withhold your son, your only son." You surrendered your love for him for your love towards Me.

Pay close attention. Avraham and Yitzchak do not return together! This is another thing that we must think about. Avraham says to his servants: "Wait here with the donkey. The boy and I will go up there; we will worship, and we will return to you." And what is written at the close of the Akeida? "And Avraham returned…" And where was Yitzchak? Yitzchak is not there! However we spin the story, Yitzchak fails to return together with Avraham. Yitzchak goes to Be'er Lachai Ro'i. The Gemara tell us that he was in Gan Eden for two years to heal from the wounds inflicted by his father. In today's age, we understand more about these types of wounds… and I ask you to recall the story that I told earlier. Even without being slaughtered in real life, just with the experience of the knife, he needed two years recovery time in Gan Eden. At any rate, that is what the Gemara says. We speak in piyutim of Yitzchak's ashes being gathered upon the altar. What ashes? Nothing happened to Yitzchak! The slaughter knife itself brought ashes into the world. The ashes of Isaac were already a reality.

Now, God does not expect us to create these ashes. He says, "Do not send forth your hand," he says "Choose life!" (Devarim 30:19) Were it not for this, God would not have commanded us with the day of Shabbat that follows the six days of activity, He would not have given us the Mitzva of "Be fruitful and multiply" and He would not have commanded us to "Love thy neighbor as yourself." Our king is a king who desires life, a Melekh Chafetz BaChayim. But we, in our love for God say that we are willing even to give up everything; we are willing to give our very lives in order to sanctify His name in the world.

Our history is filled with tests - for ourselves, our fathers and our forefathers. Situations that put people to the test as to whether they are prepared to give up their lives Al Kiddush Hashem. However, our very lives here, as a nation who are Chaftez BaChayim, in this place that is so fraught and so entwined with death is making a clear statement to God. We stand here and say to Hakdosh Baruch Hu, to the King who Desires Life, that we too are a nation who seek life, but that at the same time, we are committed to Him and that we are going to stride with this unwavering commitment in the deepest way, all the way. Even when it means sending a child to the army, we are not pacifists. We observe the Mitzva of protecting the Land, and the protection of the Nation. Our act of preserving and guarding the nation are, in some manner, an Akeida-like act. Our very willingness to go to the army and the simple fact of our living here behold certain characteristics of the Akeida.

Sometimes, I am challenged by people who live abroad, who are unaware of the dynamic life that takes place here in Israel; "Isn't it dangerous? How do you endanger your children in this way?" We answer by saying: We embrace life. We do not sacrifice our children, we do not, God forbid, send our children to blow themselves up. Those acts of sacrifice that were part of the world of Chasidei Ashkenaz (the suicides of communities in the Rhinelands during the Crusades) were rejected and negated absolutely by the world of the Halakha. There was antipathy towards these acts of suicide. We, God forbid, are not a suicidal nation. We are a nation who desire life, we are integrally connected to life, and we are commanded to embrace life. Hence, Akeidat Yitzchak is so shocking year after year!

Indeed we are the nation of the Shofar, not the nation of the Slaughter Knife. We cleave to life and we hold tightly to it and when situations become dangerous we try to avert that danger. But, we will not abandon life, because of life. Eretz Yisrael is our life, Am Yisrael is our life, and if our life is threatened then we guard our life with our very lives. This is the essence of our existence; not a nation engaged in suicide, but a nation that seeks "to work and to guard, to preserve." (Bereshit 2:13) A nation of gentle guardians, watching over the image of God, this is our nation.

The Shofar comes to tell God the story of our life and not the story of our death. When we talk about protecting and preserving Am Yisrael, we speak with the voice of the Shofar under a certain understanding: That Hakadosh Baruch Hu is a father who is Chafetz BaChayim. With an understanding that a father will not act with cruelty towards his own children. With an understanding that a father does not, God forbid, take a slaughter knife to his own son.

And so, in the final analysis, we are playing a double game. On the one hand, we are the Children of Avraham. We need to study the Akeida deeply and to learn that we are to have a life of "Hineni." And in contrast, we have a life of "Hineni B'ni." We pray to God that he not put us in that awful dilemma, that we not experience the harsh choices; the tension that lies between "Hineni," and "Hineni Bn'i."

And on the other hand, we also turn to God not as Avraham but as Yitzchak. Not as parents but in the place of the son, the child. We turn to God who is our father, a father as we read in Parashat Haazinu: "As an eagle who rouses his nest, he will hover over his young." A father who protects his children that no one should harm them, a father who does not lock the door, a father who "opens the gate at the time that the gates are about to be closed." (from Ne'ila) That is our father.

And when we stand to the sound of the Shofar, we stand there with all this important complexity, and we pray for life. We pray for an abundance of life, to create life, and we turn to God as a kind, sensitive, merciful parent, that he let us fulfill the words of the verse (Devarim 4:4,) by allowing us to "cleave to Hashem your God," but that he will also give us the end of the passuk with a Bracha for the new year: "You are all alive today!" (Chayim Kulchem Hayom.).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Parashat Nitzavim. We Are All Individuals!

Parashat Nitzavim tells the story in which one person or group sins and the entire society suffers. Why? What is this strange connectedness between the private individual and the collective as a whole?

Read the shiur here:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Do you know what you are singing?

One of our favourite ShabbatZemirot is Dror Yikra. But do you know what it is really about?

There is a fascinating connection between this week's Haftara and one particular verse in Dror Yikra. The verse reads.

דרוך פורה בתוך בצרה
וגם בבל אשר גברה
נתוץ צרי באף ועברה
שמע קולי ביום אקרא

"Tread the wine-press in Bozrah,
And in Babylon who prevailed with brute force.
Crush my enemies in anger and fury.
On the day when I cry, hear my voice."

Now what does this verse refer to? See these pesukim in the book of Yishayahu:

מִי-זֶה בָּא מֵאֱדוֹם, חֲמוּץ בְּגָדִים מִבָּצְרָה, זֶה הָדוּר בִּלְבוּשׁוֹ, צֹעֶה בְּרֹב כֹּחוֹ; אֲנִי מְדַבֵּר בִּצְדָקָה, רַב לְהוֹשִׁיעַ. ב מַדּוּעַ אָדֹם, לִלְבוּשֶׁךָ; וּבְגָדֶיךָ, כְּדֹרֵךְ בְּגַת. ג פּוּרָה דָּרַכְתִּי לְבַדִּי, וּמֵעַמִּים אֵין-אִישׁ אִתִּי, וְאֶדְרְכֵם בְּאַפִּי, וְאֶרְמְסֵם בַּחֲמָתִי; וְיֵז נִצְחָם עַל-בְּגָדַי, וְכָל-מַלְבּוּשַׁי אֶגְאָלְתִּי

Which means:

"1 'Who is this that comes from Edom, with crimsoned garments from Bozrah? He that is glorious in his apparel, stately in the greatness of his strength?'--'I that speak in victory, mighty to save.'-- 2 'Why is Your clothing red, and Thy garments like he who treads in the winevat?'-- 3 'I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the peoples there was no man with Me; I trod them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; and their lifeblood is dashed against My garments, and I have stained/redeemed all my clothing." (Yishayahu 63:1-3)

In this scene, a figure is depicted as striding from Edom. His clothes are splattered and covered with some red liquid. It appears that he has been treading grapes. In fact this particular individual is God. He hasn't been treading grapes at all, and it isn't wine on his clothing – it is blood. He has been taking vengeance against the enemies of Israel in fury and anger. He "stains" and "redeems" all at once.

Note the connecting words between the verses - בצרה / דרוך פורה / אף – and the common theme.

Well that is quite a nice verse to sing to a happy tune!

Now how does this fit into Dror Yikra? Written in the 10th Century, Dror Yikra is all about redemption. "Dror" means "Freedom" and the zemer calls for a time of redemption in which Am Yisrael may rest from toil and torment, and rebuild our Beit Mikdash. Part of this is that era of redemption means that instead of the Jews living in exile in a constant state of fear, shame and persecution, vengeance will be visited upon our enemies!
Of course, in a modern era of tolerance and western multiculturalism in which many Jews find themeselves with full opportunities and rights, these lines may grate upon our moral heartstrings. Let us not forget that for much of the past 2000 years Jews did suffer from humiliation, pogrom and inquisition, daily restrictions on education, landownership and trade, religious expression and political participation. Maybe in a fyture post I will deal with the topic of vengeance in Judaism. But the bottom line is that the sense of Justice that we expect God to represent in History, means that many many prphetic books, inluding Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Yoel, Ovadia, Nahum etc. all mention God settling accounts in some future era of Truth when the wrongs of History are to be put right.

Interestingly, the Nevua speaks about God visiting EDOM and our Zemer talks about BAVEL. However in the original, it does say: וגם אדום אשר גברה. This fits far better with the Yishayahu source, It also fits with the fact that Chazal identified Rome with Edom and hence, it was Edom that destroyed the Beit Mikdash.

How did Edom get switched to BAVEL? Well, Edom was identified with teh Romans. But Rome adopted Christianity as its official religion, and very soon, Rabbinic circles identified Edom with the Church (and Yishmael with Islam.) So the Biblical Kingdom of Edom in the Arava valley is identified as Rome, which later becomes the Christian Church! One can only imagine that in Christian Europe, one could not sing, or publish songs, suggesting that God spill the blood of the Christians! And hence, the word "Edom" was replaced by "Bavel" in order to remain "Politically correct."

So now you know the meaning of the song!
You can read more about this Zemer on a special Piyut website!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Parashat Ki Tavo

Here are two of my shiurim for Parashat Ki Tavo.

Inside, Outside: - Our parasha contains a string of public ceremonies; whther Bikkurim, or the Tithe Confession (Viduy Masrot) or even the covenental spectacle at Har Eval and Har Gerizim. In reading this paraha, I feel that there is a fascinating interplay between teh private personal domain, and the public sphere where here, the Torah uses one meduium to effect the other.

The Covenant at Arvot Moav: Did you know that this parasha contains the event in which the nation of Israel express their agreement to the conditions of keeping the Torah? Where do we find this in the parasha? Why wasn't Mt. Sinai enough?

Thanks to Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi for posting my shiurim.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Rav Soloveichik Machzor

See here.
I haven't seen it yet. Looks interesting! Rav Soloveichik was a master in psychological insight, textual analysis and an incredible pedagogue as he induced all who listened to engage in some soul searching. His Teshuva lectures as recorded in Al Hateshuva are a masterpeice, and ever since my first year at yeshiva, his ideas have been an ongoing presence in my consiousness of the Yamim Noaraim.
I do wonder, however, who put the Machzor together. (Elul is certainly NOT a time to air the dirty linen of all the different parties who claim the Rav as their own, viewing Rav Soloveitchik in their own image. Suffice to say that there is a great range in the manner that the Rav is remembered, and that no one is objective here.)
Thanks Gil.

A Story for Parashat Ki Tavo

A Story by Rabbi Riskin for Parashat Ki Tavo

Hecher! Louder!

I was twelve and a half years old and had never been to a chassidic prayer service before. My neighborhood had been gradually turning, into a refuge for Holocaust survivors, many of whom were chassidim, including the Klausenberger Rebbe, a saintly rabbi particularly well-known for his initiative, energy and kindness. Together with his flock of chassidim, scattered remnants from the fires of Europe, they had taken over the Beth Moses Hospital not far from my childhood home in Bedford-Stuyvesant and, much to the amazement of the local brownstone owners, transformed it into a yeshiva-vocational school and synagogue. And so one summer morning in 1952 on the Sabbath of Ki Tavo, overwhelmed with curiosity, I put on my crisp blue suit and set out for a world of fur hats and gabardines, eager for the opportunity to be in the presence of a truly holy man, and to experience a different kind of prayer.

Now the Torah reading of Ki Tavo is famous for 53 verses which, when read aloud by the baal kriah, are recited quite differently than any Other verses read during the year. … Because of the vivid and frightening power of these verses, they are always read in a low voice, hardly more than a whisper. The Tochacha, or the Warning, is not something we're exactly eager to hear, But if we must hear it once a year, then the Baal Kriah lowers his voice. It was a custom I was familiar with and every year it was reinforced.

And so I wasn't the only one surprised when right at the beginning of the Tochacha, as the Baal Kriah intoned those first few curses in a whisper so hushed we could barely hear him, that the Klausenberger Rebbe banged on the table and shouted in Yiddish, "Hecher!!"

Louder?? The reader Stopped for a moment and apparently thought he hadn't heard correctly and continued to read quietly in accordance with Jewish tradition. "Hecher!!" shouted the rebbe again, his face pale and his eyes determined. "Hecher!!"

Perhaps the rebbe was feeling an unbearable sadness! I knew that he had lost all 11 of his children in the Holocaust and wondered if that could have something to do with his outcry.

I wasn't all that far off, but in an entirely different direction, Addressing the stunned silence that surrounding him, the rebbe said, "We have nothing to be afraid of. Let God hear in a loud voice all of our suffering and humiliations, because after the curses, the Bible promises the blessings and a return to the land of Israel. Let Him hear the curses so that He'll know that this must be the time for the blessings,"

In effect, the Klausenberger Rebbe used the Bible as a challenge to God.
And who better to offer such a challenge than a man who lived through the
verses we were reading that morning, a man who had never even had the time to sit shiva for his children, because he believed that every moment was needed to save Jews.

Our Torah was given nearly 3500 years ago and we would have to be quite nearsighted, or very stubborn, to refuse to see that the Diaspora and the Tochacha are the history of the Jewish people. We can only stand in awe when we realize that the historical sequences which were outlined so long ago have indeed come to pass, making the Five Books of Moses more relevant than tomorrow's New York Times.

That's why the blessings that follow are so significant. The Klausenberger Rebbe's challenge was first and foremost a declaration that the Torah, by fulfilling the first part, the Warning, must eventually fulfill the second part, the blessings. And what are they if not the promise of the end of exile and the beginning of the redemption of the Jewish people when God says:

"…Then the lord will bring back your remnants, and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from all the nations amongst whom the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts be at the utmost parts of heaven, from there will the Lord your God gather you, and from there will he fetch you, and the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it." … [Deut 30:1-10]