From Where I Stand
By Rabbi Yossy Goldman
One section stands out from the rest in this week’s parashah. It is known as the Tochachah, the Rebuke. There we read a litany of disasters that will befall our people should we turn our backs on G‑d and abandon His way of life. The tradition is that the Ba’al K’riah (Torah Reader) himself, without being called up, takes this aliyah, and when he reaches the relevant section, he lowers his voice to soften the blow of these terrible curses.
For 24 years, I produced and hosted South Africa’s only Jewish radio show, The Jewish Sound. Once, my guest on the air was Rabbi Shlomo Riskin from Efrat, Israel. He told the story that as a child growing up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, he went to daven one Shabbos in the shul of the Rebbe of Klausenberg. Originally from Hungary, the Rebbe was a spiritual giant of a man who had lost 11 children in the Holocaust and never sat shivah because he was preoccupied with saving as many lives as he possibly could. After the war, he settled in America and developed a large following. Subsequently, he relocated to Israel and, among other things, set up the Laniado Hospital in Netanya.
That Shabbos, the Rebuke was being read. When it came to the part of the curses, the Reader did what he always did: he lowered his voice and read in a softer tone. Suddenly, the Rebbe shouted in Yiddish, “Hecher!” (“Louder!”). The Reader was confused. He was simply following the tradition of generations. Perhaps he was not hearing right, so he continued reading in the softer tone. “Hecher!” thundered the Klausenberger Rebbe. “Let the Al-mighty hear what is being read! All the curses have already been fulfilled. Now there must be only blessings for our people.” (“Zol der Ribbono shel Olom heren! Alle klolois zenen shoin mekuyem gevoren. Yetzt darf men nor brochos.”)
Many of our sages have described the Holocaust as the birth pangs of Mashiach and the ultimate redemption. Never will there be a repeat of such calamities. We have endured more than enough of exile, wanderings, pogroms, and persecutions. The curses, in all their tragic, cataclysmic imagery have actually materialized. Now there must be only goodness, happiness, and blessings for Am Yisrael.
At the end of the Rebuke, G‑d says, “And I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the Land.” Not only will the Al-mighty remember us, the Jewish People, He will also remember His Holy Land, our Land of Israel. Perhaps we might interpret this as a message to the anti-Semites of the world who hide behind their anti-Zionist or anti-Israel rantings and ravings.
“I will remember the Land”—a message also to the nations of the world who claim to be our friends, the shrewd manipulators in Washington and London who are expert in political backstabbing. “I will remember the Land”—a message to our own Jewish fantasizers who would undermine their own brothers with their hopeless attempts at appeasing mortal enemies. To all of them, the G‑d of Israel says: I will remember the Land; I will never forsake My land or My people.
And as He remembers us, let us remember Him and our covenant. May we prepare for Shavuos and the Giving of the Torah with earnestness and joy. May G‑d and His people always remember each other. Amen. v
Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn and was sent in 1976 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe as an emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Shul and president of the South African Rabbinical Association. His sefer “From Where I Stand: Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading” was published by Ktav and is available at Jewish book shops or online at www.ktav.com.