Friday, September 07, 2007

Nitzavim and Faith

In this week's portion, God warns us to keep His commandments. If we do not, we will be sent into exile, and 'we will be singled out for suffering' (Deut 29:20). The nations will stand in wonder at the torture and destruction of God's beloved nation, and they will say, 'it must be punishment for turning away from God's covenant' (29:24). And yet, no matter how far we fall, God will redeem us. 'God will return with our exiles, and have mercy; He will gather us from the lands of our dispersion', into Israel (29:3-5). God promises us this.

In Amos (9:13-15), we are again promised the vision of salvation, this time even more clearly and in far more detail:

"יג הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים, נְאֻם-יְהוָה, וְנִגַּשׁ חוֹרֵשׁ בַּקֹּצֵר, וְדֹרֵךְ עֲנָבִים בְּמֹשֵׁךְ הַזָּרַע; וְהִטִּיפוּ הֶהָרִים עָסִיס, וְכָל-הַגְּבָעוֹת תִּתְמוֹגַגְנָה. יד וְשַׁבְתִּי, אֶת-שְׁבוּת עַמִּי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּבָנוּ עָרִים נְשַׁמּוֹת וְיָשָׁבוּ, וְנָטְעוּ כְרָמִים וְשָׁתוּ אֶת-יֵינָם; וְעָשׂוּ גַנּוֹת, וְאָכְלוּ אֶת-פְּרִיהֶם. טו וּנְטַעְתִּים, עַל-אַדְמָתָם; וְלֹא יִנָּתְשׁוּ עוֹד, מֵעַל אַדְמָתָם אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לָהֶם--אָמַר, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ."

"'When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,' says the Lord your God."

I think these quotes are especially important to read and allow to permeate our souls in our present day, when so much of our tradition is under attack by skeptical elements. In the past millennia, Jews and gentiles have accepted prima facie the authenticity of the Torah and other books of the Bible. Even without the fulfillment of the positive prophecies of reconstruction, they have survived with their faith in God and His word. They lived and died for a day when their children and grandchildren would be able to witness the fulfillment of God's promises. They needed no proof.

However, around the turn of the last century, scholars and skeptics have begun to question, not only the dating of certain works, or the exact authorship of certain parts of some books, but the very concept of God's revelation of His will and future plans to Mankind. Whole sections of Jews may not believe in the divinity of our scripture, or even in the existence of God! Humanity has become cynical, and so, have chosen to question God's revelation.

However, we must pay attention to the historical currents that surrounded this movement. The return of Jews to Zion with the intent of rebuilding the land and Jewish culture gained steam. Eventually, European Jewry was destroyed, and out of the fire, like a phoenix, the modern state of Israel rose. The remnants beat back blood-thirsty hordes of Arab soldiers, intent on destroying them. This happened, not once, but five times. Jews returned and continue to stream to their land, and even the anti-Zionists admit that, if not ראשית צמיחת גאולתינו, we are living through, at least, עיקבתא דמשיחא.

This is God's most poetic answer to the skeptics. God counters their questions by making the living word of His books come true! Hashem always keeps us open to faith. Sometimes we are sustained by faith in the word, as the generations before us. However, if we begin to question its authenticity, he makes it come true, so we can no longer doubt it.

In Nitzavim and Amos, God promised us redemption, and placed his name on it as a seal of truth. It happens now as we watch! And yet, we are blinded by its shining light, even as we live through it. Future generations will ask us, did you not see the obvious fulfillment of God's word?

I realized, while speaking to a skeptical friend, that what we are witnessing with our own eyes is the irrefutable realization of the prophecies of God. These verses are our generation's personal Har Sinai experience; this is our revelation! We ourselves bear witness to the fact that God exists, and that He keeps his promises to Israel.

God's hand forces history, and history, against all odds and against all precedent, favors Israel (by all accounts a dead nationalism) and the nation of Israel rises again in the land of Israel, just as the Torah and prophets foresaw.

May this coming year be one in which all prophecies come true, and the floodgates of knowledge, light, and peace open wide. May the world bask in the glow of our redemption, and may mountains and valleys ring with the song of global salvation.