Why were we sent into exile? Mei’oni v’rav avodah, the Navi tells us—because of poverty, and too great a servitude.
Jews are no strangers to servitude. Our entire lives, personal, familial, communal, are all a continuous service of Hashem. Nothing is in our own names, we are never the determining factor of our words and deeds. Our ideal concept of human dignity is in servitude.
But the service that we devote our lives to is to Hashem. Those who devote themselves to serving Him are elevated into the realm of true freedom, released from the laws of nature and history. Jews serve the One G-d, and this makes us free.
Alas, we were not satisfied with this. We did not feel secure enough. So we looked for protection from men, we set up human kings for our defense, and formed alliances for our security, never realizing that in serving many, we gave up the shield of the One Who alone is the source of our protection.
But all the human help in the world cannot replace Him. The laws of nature look at Jewish history and declare a resounding “No!” It is only G-d Who keeps us alive with His “Yes!” When klal Yisrael replaced the service of Hashem with the service of kings, it was driven into exile by the very nations whose friendship it had sought. Why was klal Yisrael sent into exile? Because spiritually, it had already exiled itself.
And so, we became a restless, homeless nation wandering the earth, suffering catastrophes, submitting to the judgment of nations as they deliberate whether or not Jews have the right to exist.
Hashem offers the only way we can live in peace, unthreatened by all the storms of history: “Go, my people, come into your room and close the door, live your lives in your own enclosure, be a Jew and nothing else—until the storm has passed” (Yeshayahu 26:20).
And when that happens, all mankind, having endured the turbulence of history, will finally come to the realization that the only source of peace is G-d.
Have a meaningful Taanis,
Director, Ani Maamin Foundation
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Please note: The “Gem of the Week” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s collected writings, with permission from the publisher.