Va'eira: History Effects Us

I just got a good laugh.


The IDF’s official report stated that around 40% of secular Israeli’s don’t serve in the army at all.


All this talk against the religious for not wanting to join the army and making them “do their share”, etc.. is nothing but politics.  The religious world for years has been complaining how this is a one-sided affair where only the religious get attacked for not wanting to join, yet everybody is so quiet about how many non-religious don’t serve as well.


Perhaps it’s time to finally make a professional army with a sizable reserve force and stop all this nonsense.


Or would that simply take something off the table for the politicians to rally around, and hence, we can’t do that?


The Gemara (Yoma 23a) recounts a story that occurred during the final days of the Second Beis HaMikdash.  At that time, the honour of collecting the ash from the Altar was given to the Kohen who was able to run up the ramp of the Altar the fastest.  An incident occurred when two Kohanim reached the top at the same time.  One of them took out his knife and stabbed the second one in the chest!  Rebbe Zaddok got up and cried about the situation that the Jewish people were in, and everybody else began to cry as well.


Then, the father of the stabbed Kohein came and found that his son was not quite dead yet and was withering in pain.  And what did he say?  “Look! He’s still alive!  The knife is not yet impure!” (the Ritva writes that he wanted to pull out the knife to save it from impurity).  The Gemara then laments that we learn that during that time, the purity status of objects was more important than the shedding of human blood, and it brings in a pasuk from the Book of Kings that describes the how much blood flowed in Yerushaliyim during the reign of King Menashe.


A question popped into my mind: The incident took place during the end of the Second Beis HaMikdash, and as a ‘proof’ of the times, the Gemara brings a pasuk which is discussing the time of the FIRST Beis HaMikdash.  I was happy to see that the Ritva was also bothered by this.  He explains that the situation was so bad during the first Beis HaMikdash, that it had a very long-term affect and lingered with the Jewish nation for hundreds of years afterwards.


This whole incident, along with the explanation of the Ritva, gave me a bit of comfort.  Many times we see people getting all “frum” about certain mitzvos, or even customs, yet blatantly ignoring far more important ones (and ones generally easier to control).  It all seems a bit contradictory.  However, we see from here, and many other places in the Gemara, that “nothing new is under the sun”, behavior like this has been around for millennium.  After all… for a father to see his son dying on the ground and being all frum about the purity status of the knife… it’s pretty hard to beat THAT.


But another thing to learn from here is that many times these behaviors are not necessarily indicative of the individual, but rather could possibly be something that is a result of things that happened hundreds of years ago, and is still reverberating in our times.  True, we often might not see what those incidences were, but it’s still something to keep in mind.  There was at least 500-600 years between the description of the times of King Menashe and the incident mentioned in the Gemara, yet there was still a connection between the two.


Perhaps this lesson can be used next time we see such blatantly forbidden attitudes and behaviours from individuals or groups of individuals.  Yes, we all have freedom of choice, but still… perhaps there is an echo of long ago, which still has an effect today.


Have a great Shabbos!