Walking the Tightrope

by Rabbi Nussbaum
October 11, 2019  
TISHREI 12, 5780
Candlelighting Time 6:09 PM

         We are a nation always seeking balance. We just completed Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year when we yearn for that closeness to Hashem that will provide us with the atonement that we so desire. And we are on the threshold of Succos when we are shielded from the elements by a frail structure that has a patched roof and usually feeble walls. Yet we rejoice with Hashem as we partake of our Yom Tov meals in the Succah and weather permitting even sleep there as well. And the climax of the Yom Tov season is of course Simchas Torah when we dance with the Torah expressing our love for Hashem’s word and committing ourselves to another year of Torah study. What a wonderful way to begin our year!

            Yet there is the background music of the ongoing imbalance in the Middle East. Our enemies become more aggressive and there is always the threat of missiles launched in our direction, endangering the safety and security of our brothers and sisters in Israel. How can we in America feel joyous and enjoy the Yom Tov when we never know at any given moment what might transpire overseas? Should we downplay our happiness and only serve light meals serving as a constant reminder of the jeopardy that confronts our people in Israel? Of course we are not going to adopt such an attitude because even in Israel the people are confident and content with the realization that Hashem has protected them in the past and He will again defend them from future attacks.

            With this in mind, the words of Nachmonides explaining the song of Ha’azinu become very powerful and inspiring.  This composition concludes that the nations of the world will come to acknowledge Hashem and therefore they will praise us that we withstood so many difficulties throughout the years and yet we did not forsake Hashem, always trusting that eventually we will be extricated from our horrible exile from the land of Israel and one day the third Beis Hamikdash will materialize in a blazing appearance. When the second Beis Hamikdash was constructed, the nations did not come to praise us, on the contrary they ridiculed our attempt to build it with the observation that we were a defeated nation having lost the first Beis Hamikdash a short seventy years earlier. Additionally, our leaders were subservient to the government in Babylonia, so how could we surge forward and try to reestablish our very own ruling class when we did not have the infrastructure for such a project!

            However, so much of Ha’azinu has become factually realized that Nachmonides states that even if this was just a letter from a random stargazer, since he had accurately predicted so many events we would certainly rely upon his prospective foretelling of events yet to befall. Therefore, the time will come when indeed the nations of the world will cast away their falsehoods and adopt the truth of the Torah. Even though in today’s global environment this is almost impossible to believe, nonetheless our faith in the Torah bolsters our trust that this will one day be realized.

            So, here we stand, on the one hand terrified of the outcome of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and, on the other hand, rejoicing with Hashem expressing our full confidence that we will merit another year of life. On the one hand, our brethren in Israel are so happy and content reveling in the holiness of their land, yet faced with the potential hazard of a madman lobbying destruction in to their midst. We the Jewish nation, the existential jugglers seeking to maximize the benefit of any given situation yet cognizant of the reality which often faces us down. And this is the Succah, frail yet powerful, rickety yet stable. And yes, this is life fraught with danger but secure with our faith and trust in Hashem.  


As thriving and invulnerable as we may feel, we must always realize that without Hashem we are impotent and endangered.                                              CHOFETZ CHAIM