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Machshavot | Pesach 5779 #1

April 30, 2019 Andrew Shaw
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Rebuilding Our Nation

As the Jewish world prepares to sit down for Seder tonight it behoves us to look at one of the major events in the world this week and what we can learn from it.

It was a week where for the first time in months Brexit was no longer on the front-page of all newspapers but instead they showed the pictures of the burning Notre Dame Cathedral.

In Israel, Rav Shlomo Aviner, one of the pre-eminent Religious Zionist Rabbis was interviewed on the website srugim.com about the tragedy from a Jewish standpoint. The interviewer made several “inflamatory” suggestions that it was a Divine punishment, and the answers that R’ Aviner gave several times was that we cannot know the ways of God. He is asked ‘Maybe this fire is a punishment from Heaven?’ He answers ‘Maybe. But we do not know the secrets of the Holy One, blessed be He. For this we need prophets.’

Unfortunately, A lot of the Jewish newspapers took glee highlighting Rav Aviner’s comments with sensational headlines such as ‘Radical Rabbi says Notre Dame fire retribution for 13th Century Talmud burning’ The problem is, that the vast majority of readers will not go to the original interview in Hebrew and will just take the newspapers headlines and come to a warped conclusion. In fact, the comments on the article in the Times of Israel did exactly that. First lesson – we need to know the full story before we can comment.

Of course, we can all agree that the church over the centuries did horrendous things to the Jewish people but deciding that this is definite Divine punishment is playing God.

To me there is a major idea we can learn from the tragedy which links to tonight.

We as Jews are familiar with the many, many burnings of our places of worship over the generations. When we recite Vhi Sheamdah tonight we will say ‘Bchol dor va dor’ In every generation they rose up to destroy us – and in most of those cases it involved burning our shuls.

The most infamous destruction of course was the churban of the two Batei Mikdash, which we still mourn to this day and pray for the rebuilding.

We have always dealt with physical destruction with the realisation that Torah is not contained in the bricks and mortar, it is contained in the people that come to daven there and the people who live their lives guided by the very scrolls that lay burning in shuls throughout the millennia.

Tonight – probably the most important educational event of the year, does not take place, never took place in a large shul with thousands of worshippers. It takes place in the most vital and important address for the continuity of the Jewish people – the Jewish home. Parents and children together discussing our story, our past, while hopefully building our future.

Notre Dame burned this week and thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars of donation it will be rebuilt.

Our Bet HaMikdash burned down nearly 2000 years ago but no amount of millions of dollars will rebuild it. That rebuilding can only come from each and every one of us realising our role in its rebuilding – living lives of Torah both in and out of the home.

Tonight as we sit down for the 3331st seder night – we must reflect on our remarkable journey from slaves in Egypt to freedom in ancient Israel. We must realise that the journey of old has been replayed in modern times. When we say tonight Leshana haba BeYerushalayim – we should say it with great feelings of joy and thanksgiving to Hashem for bringing us back but with a realisation that we still have more road to travel to not only return to the physical Yerushalayim but to rebuild the spiritual one as well.

And that will certainly also make headlines around the world.

Bimhera Beyameinu,

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Kasher V Sameach

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