Gem of the Week from Rav Hirsch: Poverty Amidst Wealth

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Why was klal Yisrael sent into galus?

Every thinking Jew ought to consider this. It ought to be our only question. If we are still in exile, exile’s underlying cause is keeping us here. Whatever it is, it must be eliminated before geulah can come, and we must act accordingly. There was once a time when Israel was an equal, an independent, important nation, whose capital was rabbasi am—so how are we now in exile?

Mei’oni v’rav avodah, the Navi answers, because of poverty and great servitude. But if klal Yisrael was sent into exile because of poverty,poverty could not have struck it there. It was the cause, not the consequence, of galus. And to warrant galus, this poverty must have been unusual indeed.

Indeed, klal Yisrael was supposed to be rich, both in people and in property. The Torah is the only religious text that does not say, “Study these words and keep these laws so you can be rewarded in the world to come.” It offers the real world as proof.

The Torah says: if you observe my laws, heaven and earth will smile upon you, rain will fall at the right time, your fields will be abundant, man and beast will hold you in awe. But these promises were meant to be a means, not an end. Blessings would come only through the Torah, for the Torah. The people would recognize that their nobility and sanctity could only be achieved through the Torah. It was a national treasure.

But, alas, klal Yisrael were enraptured by their riches, seeking only material wealth and its delights. It was the extent of their interests. When Eretz Yisrael was ready for them, they did not bear in mind the purpose for which they were promised it. And so klal Yisraelbecame poor amid the greatest wealth, poor because of the great wealth.

Neither the land nor the Jewish people can endure when physical materialism is the primary goal. In this Land, materialism must be obtained and used by the spiritual, and it is the Torah that contains the spiritual prerequisites for everything on earth. It is only through Torah that the Jewish people retain their land. But if they turn their backs on it, if material goods are gained only for their own sake, G-d’s protection will leave them, and the land will cast them out. If they want to be rich, they will find themselves poor.

Galsa Yehuda mei’oni. We were sent into exile because we were poor in the only wealth that matters.

Have a wonderful Shabbos.

Moshe Pogrow

Director, Ani Maamin Foundation

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Please note: This “Gem of the Week,” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s collected writings, with permission from the publisher.



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