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"G-D’S GUIDING HAND IN OUR HISTORY"
In this week’s parsha, the tochachos - the curses, the terrible calamities that will befall us throughout our history are enumerated. There is no parallel to this in the theological or historical writings of any other people, and this, in and of itself, is proof of the Torah’s Divine authorship and the guiding hand of G-d in our history.
There are actually two places in the Torah where these curses are mentioned - once in this parsha and once in the Book of Leviticus - each focusing on a different period in our history. In Leviticus, the destruction of the First Temple and our subsequent exile are foretold, while in Deuteronomy - the destruction of the Second Temple, with the evil that followed and which continues to haunt us to this very day is related. After describing the many horrific events that would befall our people in the Roman exile, the parsha states, “And you shall return in boats to Egypt..” (Deuteronomy, 28:68), which at first glance is difficult to understand, for to travel from Israel to Egypt does not require a boat. Historians of the period who recount the events of those days, relate how our ancestors were taken to Rome in chains and sold as slaves. But there were so many Jewish slaves that the market became depressed, so the Romans decided to ship our people to Egypt to be sold there. Thus, the tragic prophecy was fulfilled.
There are many terrible painful curses enumerated in this parsha, which anyone who experienced the Holocaust can easily identify, but since the curse of return to Egypt by boat is mentioned last, it appears that the Torah regards this to be the most devastating of all. And this too is puzzling, for it certainly cannot compare with the atrocities that were visited upon us during our long and painful exile.
Our rabbis explain that the greatest of all agonies that can befall someone is to discover that his entire life’s work - all his efforts, his labors and his hopes, were to naught, that all that he believed, that all that he had accomplished was of no significance, and after it was all over, he was right back to where he started from. G-d brought us forth from Egypt thousands of years ago so that we might come to Sinai, receive His Covenant and become a Priestly Kingdom, a Holy Nation, and thus fortified, enter the Promised Land. But alas, we failed in our mission. We did not adhere to the commandments and after many centuries, we were right back where we started from - once again, slaves in Egypt.
There is a profound message in this tragedy that speaks to all of us. As we approach Rosh HaShana, let us search our lives and ascertain whether our efforts, toil, and aspirations are rooted in our Torah and of lasting value, or whether they are mere whims that evaporate. Let us make certain that the energy that we expend has substance and merit and will make the world a better place and grant us our portion in World to Come. Despite all the curses that are prophesied, there is a blessing to be found therein which is hinted at by the Hebrew word “V’hoya” - “And it shall be” - the phrase with which the curses are introduced (Deut. 28:15) and which our sages explain is an expression of joy. The very fact that G-d’s guiding hand is directing us - that nothing happens randomly, that there is a beginning and an ultimate goal to our history, should fill us with happiness for it assures us that G-d will never give up on us but will bring us to our final destination - our redemption, with the coming of messiah.