Moments of Time that Changes History:
Parshas Bereishis documents times in history where decisions were made that changed the course of history. Two recent ones:
- The brothers sold Yosef. They failed
- Yehuda and Tamer – Yehuda was not given the option by God to fail.
Previously, I spoke about another moment in history that changed the slavery in Egypt in this week’s Sedra. Chapter 2, Verse 11 says:
Verse 11: וַיְהִ֣י ׀ בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיִּגְדַּ֤ל מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיַּרְא֙ אִ֣י׃
Some time after that, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his kinsfolk and witnessed their labors. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsmen.
Rashi says on when Moses had grown up:
ויגדל משה. וַהֲלֹא כְּבָר כָּתַב וַיִּגְדַּל הַיֶּלֶד? אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה בְּרַבִּי אִלְעָאִי, הָרִאשׁוֹן לְקוֹמָה וְהַשֵּׁנִי לִגְדֻלָּה, שֶׁמִּנָּהוּ פַּרְעֹה עַל בֵּיתוֹ (ילקוט שמעוני):
ויגדל משה AND MOSES WAS GROWN — But has it not already been written, (Exodus 2:10) “And the child grew”? Rabbi Judah the son of Eloai said: the first time it refers to growth in stature, the second time to greatness, — that Pharaoh appointed him to have charge over his palace (Tanchuma Yashan 2.2:17; cf. also Yalkut Shimoni on Torah 166:11).
Moshe was the Jewish nation’s inside man. Moshe was in charge of the house of Pharaoh, meaning he was the chief builder, chief architect and was in a position to ensure that the slavery in Egypt would be tolerable. Per the Medresh, he already convinced Pharaoh to give the Jews a day off and it was Shabbos. Had Moshe remained in power the slavery in Egypt would have been benign. Due to two selfish people, evil men, who informed on Moshe to Pharaoh, the future of the exile in Egypt changed and thousands of Jewish babies were killed, the people suffered back braking slavery. Yes, one or two evil men can destroy a world.
(Over Shabbos, I added, that the other story of Shifrah and Puah – Yocheved and Miriam, was one of greatness, defying Pharaoh and perhaps changing history.)
It is difficult for me to sleep and I wake up numerous times at night. To sleep, I have to force my mind to put myself in a place and feel what it would be like. I will not think about the Holocaust because it is too dangerous. I started out with being at Gettysburg along the Union line with the Confederates charging the line.
I switched to thinking about Jewish history. I focused on two times in Jewish history that were moments that changed everything. Throughout history decisions are made, events unfold, that change the course of history. I would suppose that God does not intervene, but lets man chose. Man must choose the right path. Once man chooses for better or worse, Hasgachah Pratis, divine guidance affects the future.
The two events I think about is when the 10 tribes broke off from the 2 tribes. Two selfish kings destroyed Israel. Once the split happened the northern 10 tribes would follow a different Torah. The nation of Israel could never again be united. Who stood up for the people, the congregation of Klal Israel? NO ONE. There was no one with the power to change the course of history. They could not go up against two powerful, corrupt kings. It was the start of the end. It took roughly two hundred years for Sanchreb to destroy the northern kingdom. In 2003+- Martin Brody took me to the UCLA Hillel for Shabbos morning Davening. Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller spoke eloquently. He said the Jews do better with leaders that are Avos, father figures than kings. How true. This is what the Torah worried about and was concerned about shifting from judges and father figures to kings.
The other time of history I insert myself into, is European Jewry. Who could have changed the destiny of European Jewry so that the holocaust would not happen. 1881 is given as the start of the destruction of European Jewry, when the Czar issued harsh decrees against the Jewish people. Previously, anti Semitism which was terrible, was isolated. In 1881 anti-Semitism morphed into pervasive state sponsored anti-Semitism, which effected a country’s entire Jewish population. Newspapers were enlisted in this growing and insidious anti-Semitism. The Jews of the Pale of Settlement were forced to leave. For 1881 to 1914, about 2 million Jews left, with 1.5 million going to America. This is tragically demonstrated in the movie, Fiddler on the Roof. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_of_Settlement
In 1885, my grandfather wrote a short Sefer, Sholom Yeruhalim, and felt that the start of the movement back to Israel was the start of the coming of Moshiach and was a worthwhile endeavor. He tried to develop an agricultural settlement for 1,000 families. History could have changed but it did not happen and my grandfather had to abandon the project. Tragic.
In 1894 Theodore Herzl was standing at the gates outside of the military base where Captain Alfred Dreyfus was dishonored. Upon seeing and hearing the cries of death to the Jews in liberal France, he clearly saw, like daylight, that there was no future for the Jews of Europe. Of course, he could not predict a holocaust, but he understood the Jews have three options; 1) leave Europe willingly, 2) be thrown out 3) live in fear and live with pogroms..
Herzl was very charismatic and I believe put on this earth by God to help get the Jews to leave Europe and get into Israel. Herzl only wanted to help Jews. God does not hurt the Jewish people by placing a decent man on the earth.
Unfortunately he failed to convince the Jews to move to Israel at that time when they could and go to the land that God promised is flowing with milk and honey.