web analytics
September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Navigating Our Ship On The Open Sea: Learning – and Teaching – the Lessons of History


There is more than a bit of gallows humor in the following Torah thought, which I’ve heard attributed to several gedolim over the years:

Question: Why is it that our children do not ask “Four Questions” on Sukkos? After all, things are far from ordinary – arguably even more so than on Pesach – when we sit down to our first Yom Tov meal outdoors in the sukkah.

Answer: Throughout our 2,000-year exile, it was not at all unusual for children to see their families leaving the comfort of their homes and sleeping outdoors. However, when they saw them sitting peacefully at a beautifully set table with a royal aura, it was strange enough to cause them to question the adults around them.

I suggest we consider using the opportunity Sukkos presents to share this vort with our children and grandchildren who, baruch Hashem, will need introductory remarks from us to even begin to comprehend it. We should speak to them about our history in galus and share with them what we ought to glean from our collective experiences of living as a minority among the nations of the world – lessons we learned from our parents but seem to have forgotten over time.

Most members of our parents’ generation, ever mindful of history’s painful lessons, were always careful to live under the radar screen, eschewing conspicuous consumption and avoiding anything considered high profile. (I vividly recall the time my father sent me into a Jewish-owned store to “change” a hundred dollar bill into five twenties before embarking on a road trip because he didn’t want to walk into a roadside convenience store later in the day and pay for an inexpensive item with a large-denomination bill.)

It is well known that Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, during his years living in Monsey, discouraged his talmidim from wearing their talesim in the street on Shabbos since he felt Orthodox Jews should live modestly and not attract undue attention. Our parents, though they treasured and valued their freedom, never took it for granted or assumed it was something that would last forever.

Rabbi Berel Wein relates that when his shul in Monsey was being built, and the main beam supporting the structure was purchased, the contractor suggested the shul invest in a more expensive model, one with a 150-year guarantee. Rabbi Wein remarked that as a student of history he was painfully aware that throughout our years in exile, Jews never planned to live in one place for that long a period of time.

We would be well served to take a refresher course in the “Galus 101” imparted to us by previous generations. Too many of us are ignoring these sage teachings and needlessly exuding the kind of negative energy in very public venues that threatens to undermine the unprecedented tranquility we have enjoyed over the past seventy years.

During this time period we have evolved from “Please allow us to live in peace” to “I’m glad to be living in peace” to “I have every right to live in peace” to “We will always live in peace no matter what we do.”

In the past few months alone, our community has endured a seemingly endless barrage of negative publicity with the ongoing terrible chillul Hashem caused by the violent protests in Eretz Yisrael, high-profile abuse and financial scandals, and several bitter battles between zoning boards and health departments in the Catskills and members of heimishe kehillos that generated screaming headlines in local newspapers throughout the summer months. I strongly feel that in the aggregate these all represent an existential threat to the menuchas hanefesh we currently enjoy.

The fifth perek of Bava Basra relates a number of stories told by Rabba Bar Bar Chana about extraordinarily large ships and animals. As such, some of our gedolim throughout the ages, among them the M’harsha, the Vilna Gaon and Reb Nachman of Breslov, interpreted these tales as allegorical in nature and offered a variety of lessons to explain their hidden meaning. One of these stories relates the following episode:

“Once, while on a ship, we came to [what we assumed was] a large island, which was covered with sand and vegetation. We disembarked [onto the island], began building a fire, and cooking our meal. However, we soon discovered that the ‘island’ was really a fish and when it felt the heat [of our cooking], it rolled over and we were plunged into the water. Had the ship not been nearby, we would have drowned” (Bava Basra 73b).

A number of years ago, at an Agudath Israel convention, I heard a haunting interpretation of this story from Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller, who related that the ship on the seas refers to our travels and travails throughout our period in galus.

From time to time, Rabbi Keller explained, we find “dry land” – a place to rest and establish our roots in a more permanent manner. However, we then become complacent and begin “cooking” (generating the heat of resentment among the non-Jews surrounding us) – and eventually discover that what we thought was terra firma was in fact only a temporary respite from our travels. After a period of time, we are thrown overboard back into the raging sea of galus once more.

Let us collectively and individually use this Yom Tov of Sukkos to reflect upon steps we can take to “lower the flames” and revert to the personal examples of ne’imus and tznius that we had the zechus to observe in the lives of our parents.

About the Author: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam and founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Navigating Our Ship On The Open Sea: Learning – and Teaching – the Lessons of History

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The beheading of British aid worker David Haines, Sept. 14, 2014. The terrorist standing beside him threatened that his fellow British aid volunteer, Alan Henning, would be next if UK Prime Minister David Cameron doesn't relinquish his support for the fight against ISIS.
British Muslims Plead for ISIS to Free Captive Alan Henning
Latest Indepth Stories
Dov Shurin

Fortunate are we to have Rosh Hashanah for repentance, a shofar to awaken heavenly mercy.

ISIS-strat-3

Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents

The Iron Dome was called on for the first time in 2013 to intercept a missile fired by terrorists in Sinai at Eilat.

National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s

A little less than 10 percent of eligible Democratic voters came out on primary day, which translates into Mr. Cuomo having received the support of 6.2 percent of registered Democrats.

The reality, though, is that the Israeli “war crimes” scenario will likely be played out among highly partisan UN agencies, NGOs, and perhaps even the International Criminal Court.

Peace or the lack of it between Israel and the Palestinians matters not one whit when it comes to the long-term agenda of ISIS and other Islamists, nor does it affect any of the long-running inter-Arab conflicts and wars.

Rather than serving as a deterrent against terrorist attacks, Israel’s military strength and capabilities are instead looked at as an unfair advantage in the asymmetrical war in which it finds itself.

Sisi:”The religious nature of the Middle East creates challenges for the governing authorities.”

For too long the media and international community have been preaching that “Palestinians” bear no responsibility for the consequences of their decisions and they are passive victims of the conflict.

Iron Dome intercepted over 1,000 rockets aimed at Israel with a success rate of over 90% in 2014

We talked about the responsibility that comes with the pen, its potential to influence and inspire.

Amnesty International:The crippling of the power station was “collective punishment of Palestinians”

Originally scheduled to be held elsewhere, the hotel canceled, pressured by local missionary groups

More Articles from Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
jewish psyciatrist

Those of us familiar with the do’s and don’ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should have occurred when the facts were made public regarding the accusations against Nehemia Weberman. This case may very well be our community’s most important abuse trial during our lifetimes. It is imperative that we have a huge turnout in support of the victim, a courageous young lady who, may she be gezunt andge’bentched, is determined to see this through to the end so others won’t suffer like she did.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

In part the altered lives victims of abuse and molestation live are a result of the abuse itself. But it is in part also because of the unfortunate negative reaction to the victims by their own community.

These lines are written in loving memory of our dear father, Reb Shlomo Zev ben Reb Baruch Yehudah Nutovic, a”h, whose first yahrzeit is 7 Menachem Av. May the positive lessons learned from this essay be a zechus for his neshamah.

All responsible leaders in our community have roundly condemned the recent violence in Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim.

A surefire way to gauge the generation in which a person was raised is to have him or her fill in the following sentence: Where were you when ?”

Baby Boomers would ask, “When President Kennedy was shot?” Thirtysomethings would respond, “When the space shuttle exploded?” Today’s teenagers would reply, “On 9/11?”

One week ago on my website I announced my intention to attend the next court appearance of a man who was arrested last year and is now standing trial on 10 felony charges of child abuse.

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

We were taken aback when our 18-year-old son just called us from Eretz Yisrael (we live in Europe) and told us that he was coming home and wants to immediately go to work. He said that he is wasting his time in yeshiva, and just can’t take it anymore. He said that he will “run away from home” if we don’t allow him to go to work.

Digital images of the profoundly disturbing computer-smashing ceremony conducted by Rabbi Aaron Feinhandler have been viewed by countless thousands of Jews worldwide over the past few weeks.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/navigating-our-ship-on-the-open-sea-learning-and-teaching-the-lessons-of-history/2009/09/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: