A Little Perspective

There is a well known expression that when one is standing next to a mountain, it is difficult to see how high it is. There is a human tendency to sometimes be forgetful, unaware, or unwilling to take a serious look at where we are today from the perspective of Jewish history.

The developments of this past century are simply astounding. Aside from the tragedy of the Holocaust, it wasn’t that long ago that Jews were persecuted in Russia, Iran, and Syria. There were places where Jews were not only forbidden from practicing their religion, but they were unable to leave their respective countries.

Synagogues across the United States all had, “Save Soviet Jewry” signs posted for all to see. Today, Jews can practice their religion everywhere, and those who are smart enough to want to move to Israel, are able to do so.

The State of Israel in just sixty-seven years now has a population greater than the number of Jews who perished in the death camps of World War Two. The emergence of Israel into a world power in so short a time, defies logic.

In all of human history, never has a country that was banished from its land and stripped of its identity, been able to have a rebirth as we have been witnessing right before our eyes. The State of Israel presents serious theological problems to Christianity and Islam who for centuries were convinced of G-d’s complete rejection of the Jewish people.

I recall a story of a friend, now in his seventies, who described how in his youth, if he wanted to get from Tel Aviv to Netanya, he needed to go by way of Kfar Saba, because of the swamps now known as the coastal highway. Today we have modern cities, we are world leaders in high tech, and our military is the envy of the world. We have seen the ingathering of our Jewish brethren from all parts of the world. And all of this in just sixty-seven years?

In Israel, our taxi drivers are our great philosophers. On one such lesson, I listened to one such philosopher, give his take on the recent wave of terror that we have been experiencing these last several months. I felt I was getting my money’s worth as the meter did its duty. He began telling me of the hardships that he experienced being a born Israeli, and having to fight in various wars. He went on to say that compared to everything that he had been through, this was nothing. He insisted that he was not afraid and was confident that we would overcome this as we’ve overcome so many other challenges in the past. These were encouraging words from an unexpected place.

We are a people that survived two thousand years of exile. We’ve been through pogroms, crusades, expulsion, and every type of persecution imaginable. Yet, we have survived and we have come home. Although the situation is admittedly frightening, and the media does its share in putting more fear in people than is necessary, we continue to gain strength and thrive.

It is during times like these that we need to put things into perspective and look at the total miraculous picture that we have been experiencing. It is appropriate to say that the very same G-d that took us out of Egypt with signs and wonders, is doing the very same thing for us today. We only need to step away from the mountain to see how high it really is.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for more than twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the nearly seventeen years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles.