The Sole Survivors by Moshe Davis


In Parashat Ha’azinu, Moshe Rabbeinu tells Bnei Yisrael, “Zechor Yemot Olam, Binu Shenot Dor VaDor; She’al Avicha VeYageidcha, Zekeinecha VeYomeru Lach,” “Remember the days of old, study the years of generation after generation; ask your father and he will relate it to you, your elders and they will tell you” (Devarim 32:7). Rashi (ad. loc. s.v Binu Shenot Dor VaDor) comments that this Pasuk criticizes Bnei Yisrael. Had they paid attention to history, they would have understood that Hashem has the power to care for His people and bring them Mashiach and Olam HaBa. We can infer from Rashi that by studying history, one will have complete Emunah in Hashem – anyone who looks at history will understand that Hashem is capable of anything, specifically bringing Mashiach. Although we can look back at Jewish history and realize that Hashem intervened and performed many miracles, there were also many atrocities committed against the Jewish people. By studying these atrocities, it seems as if Hashem is nowhere to be found. Throughout our many exiles, we have been persecuted and suppressed. Therefore, why would studying Jewish history give us a greater appreciation of Hashem?

To answer this apparent problem, we must look at the bigger picture. While there have been many tragic and awful events in Jewish history, we are a vibrant nation. Although we were persecuted by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Romans, we remain, while they are but ancient history. Additionally, we have finally secured control over Yerushalayim, the city which dozens of peoples fought to rule. The cities in which the Avot lived, the cities about which the Nevi’im prophesized, are under Jewish control. Apart from the Jewish people, there has never been a civilization which was exiled throughout the world and in constant duress, only to unite and return to sovereignty in its original homeland.

One may ask how this story is at all plausible; it seems impossible that a tale of such proportions could have taken place. According to any rational thinking, the Jews should have been destroyed and wiped off the face of the Earth many centuries ago. While it may seem simple, our survival can be accredited to our observance of Hashem’s Torah and Mitzvot. We learn the same Torah that our ancestors learned in medieval Europe, we perform most of the Mitzvot which Jews performed in the times of the Beit HaMikdash, and we wear the same Tefillin that Jews wore in the times of David HaMelech. By following the Torah, Mitzvot, and Hashem’s ways, we were able to survive all of our hardships and continue to prosper in our own land until today. Our adherence to Mesorah, tradition, has kept our ancient culture alive even today.

If we look at Jewish history with this positive outlook, we see how Hashem has been alongside the Jews throughout their entire exile and persecution. Without Him, we would have been mercilessly destroyed countless times, but due to our commitment to His ways, we are alive and thriving as well as ever in our homeland.

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