And why wouldn’t they? How can observant parents come to terms with a child of their own rejecting Torah, Shabbos, kashrut and everything else that is good and sacred?
They ask themselves, they ask God, “Didn’t we give our child the best of everything spiritually, financially, socially? How can You do this to us?” Their answer is deep silence.
What can the answer be when such a situation continues to spiral from bad to worse? The child rebels. The parent punishes, driving the child to greater rebellion that leads to greater punishment that inevitably leads to…
Is there another way, a better way?
* * * * *
The Talmud (Yoma 54a) quotes Rav Katina depicting the scene when the Jews came to Jerusalem for the three regalim: “… the Kohanim would pull back the curtain in the Temple and show them the cherubim hugging and embracing one another [one had masculine features, the other, feminine]. The priests would then say, ‘See how beloved you are before the Almighty, like the love of the male and female.’ ”
But, says Reish Lakish (Yoma 54b), when the destruction of the Temple came and our enemies entered the Holy of Holies, they saw the cherubim embracing like man and wife and brought them out to the street to mock the Jews, ridiculing them for their perceived impropriety.
The question arises: How could it be that the cherubim remained so obviously loving in the midst of such unspeakable destruction and tragedy? Are we not taught that “When Yisrael did the will of God, the cherubim faced one another, but when they didn’t the cherubim faced the wall”?
The answer is that God loves His children even in the midst of unbearable destruction. The Nesivos Shalom explains that the very thing our oppressors perceived as unseemly is actually the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for the Jewish people.
God wanted to show that He loves, cherishes, and cares for His children, the Jewish people, forever. This is true even when they are at their lowest. And it is this knowledge – that God will never forsake us – that gives us the strength to endure all the trials and tribulations of a seemingly endless exile.
God has unconditional love for His kinderlach.
The Zohar relates that when the Jewish people were exiled from their land, God said to the entire Heavenly host, “What are you doing here? My children are going into exile and you are remaining in the Heavens? All of you, get up and descend to Bavel, and I will descend with you.”
Chazal declare, Wherever Yisrael is exiled, the Shechinah goes with them. God does not abandon His children and permit them to go into exile unaccompanied.
In our pain and darkness, God is with us. He needs to be with us until that day when He will accompany us on our return. But until that day when we are fully ready to be redeemed, He remains with us, painful as that wait may be for Him to endure. And it is painful. We are, after all, His children. No matter how lost we are, He will not turn away from us.
The Navi says, “Shuvu banim shovavim” – “Return you wayward children.” He does not say wayward ones but wayward children. God is saying to us, “You are always My children. No matter how wayward, no matter how low you sink. You are mine.”
It is here that we fully understand the meaning of the loving embrace of the cherubim that so befuddled our enemies. Even they know that no matter what, God loves His people forever.
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran serves as OU Kosher’s vice president of Communications and Marketing.
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