Shout It Out
We just finished the roller coaster ride of joy and sorrow that is the counting of the Omer. During that time we read Parshat B’hukotai (Lev. 26:3 – 27: 34) with its promises of abundant blessings if we are faithful to the Torah and dire warnings of terrible curses if we are not. In 1945, as World War II was drawing to a close and German concentration camps were being liberated by the British and Americans (the ones further east were liberated by the Soviets), this section was read wherever possible. The next year, with all of Europe liberated, many Jewish ex-inmates were housed in Displaced Person (DP) camps, where they were provided with food, medical care and housing fit for human habitation and, we all hoped, enabled to start new lives elsewhere. It was a time of joy and hope; as Jews we refused to wallow in victimhood. Men and women met and married; babies were born. A new edition of the Vilna Talmud was published. Religious services were held, and about a year after liberation Parshat B’hukotai was read again. Traditionally, the reader reads the curses sotto voce, in a soft voice, indicating their extreme unpleasantness. But this time, as I learned in the Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva, the reader shouted the curses out. When asked why he departed from the custom, the reader answered that all the curses that he read were fulfilled during the war, and now he shouted them out as a challenge to God. As You brought about the curses, now fulfill the second part. Bring on the blessings. אל תפל דבר מכל אשר דברת. Let not one word fail from all that You have spoken (cf. Esther 6:10). And three years later, almost to the day, the State of Israel came into being and fulfilled the blessings beyond our wildest dreams. Our land and people were restored to their former greatness and then some, agriculturally and militarily. More Torah is being studied there than ever before in our history: כי מציון תצא תורה – out of Zion shall come forth Torah (Is. 2:3). Israel is the start-up nation where all manner of new hi-tech inventions are innovated, and from there they emanate as blessings to all humanity in medicine, agriculture and almost every other field of human endeavor (cf. Gen. 12: 2-3). May our state, the work of God from the beginning, grow from strength to strength and culminate in the building of the third Beit Mikdash (Holy Temple in Jerusalem) and the finalization of the ge’ula (Redemption) speedily and in our time.