There is a beautiful Mizrachi Campus which contains a shul, a primary school, a boys and girls high school, a University Kollel and a University Midrasha all staffed by dynamic Mizrachi Rabbis. It has been a pleasure teaching and working there over the last few days. We have a lot to achieve in the UK!
I addressed their fundraising breakfast on Thursday morning and mentioned all this to them but I then added that there is one area at the moment that the UK is ahead of South Africa and that is cricket!
I am still basking in the glory of last Sunday and the incredible innings of Binyamin Stokes!
Jokes aside there is something very powerful to learn from his feat which I would like to explain.
The question is how did he do it?
There were in essence two parts to his innings.
The first was careful, watchful and painstakingly slow – 177 balls for just 61 runs.
The second was explosive, dramatic and remarkably fast – 42 balls for 74 runs!
What brought on the change? He realised that circumstances had changed and due to his years of one-day cricket, he had the ability to transform his batting.
Very interesting, but what does this have to do with the Jewish people?
We have had a very long history as a people. The parshiot we are reading currently are set about 3300 years ago as Moshe delivers his final address and we are about to enter the land of Israel for the first time as a nation under Yehoshua. Once we do, for the next 1500 years we are in the land, with only 70 years exile to Bavel after the 1st Temple’s destruction to take us away. 1000 of those years were with the Temple – that was the natural state of the Jewish people.
However, then came the long exile, for almost 2000 years which became all we knew. Centuries of persecution, wandering, destruction, forced conversions, pogroms, ghettoization, expulsions – this became our natural state. As we say on Mondays and Thursday’s during Tachanun ‘We have become an object of scorn and derision among the nations, we are regarded as the sheep led to the slaughter, to be killed, destroyed, beaten and humiliated’. For those 2000 years, we as a nation had to just hang on, we pleaded to Hashem to not forget us and to redeem us and bring us back to the land of Israel – to our homeland.
And Hashem listened to our tefillot and miraculously we returned in 1948 to Israel and 1967 to Yerushalayim. Finally, we were once again an independent nation in our own land. As Rav Soloveitchik points out in his seminal work Kol Dodi Dofek that the miracle of 1948 allowed the Jewish people to re-emerge as a proud nation, for Judaism to once again be a respected religion and for the world to realise that Jewish blood is no longer cheap.
In essence circumstances have changed and we need to play differently.
Not differently in terms of an abandonment of Halacha which many of the early Zionists suggested, but differently in terms of our approach to the modern world, to a realisation of hachlata d’Geulah (the beginning of our redemption) and to our appreciation and thankfulness to Hashem.
As Rabbi Sacks once beautifully put it, ‘we need less oi more joy’.
In the same way that people pointed out that Stokes could not have played the explosive second part of his innings without the painstaking hours of survival. So too, those 2000 years of painful wandering forged a nation that was devoted to Torah even under such difficult circumstances. We have only been able to emerge into the modern era as proud and upright Jews built on the platform and scholarship of those two thousand years of painstaking growth. The idea of building any future for our people that is not Torah focused is lunacy.
It is Rosh Chodesh Elul tomorrow. Many commentators cite that Elul is an acronym for Ani l dodi, v dodi li – I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me.
The idea is that during Elul with the approach of Rosh Hashanah, Hashem is closer to the Jewish people and it is easier to be more spiritually sensitive during these times.
I believe we are living in a generation where we have merited to return to Israel and that Hashem has blessed His nation and His land, our Avodat Hashem should be enhanced by these modern day miracles, and that we can be more connected to Hashem due to the change in circumstances.
So whether it is the months of Elul and Tishrei or the miraculous story of Jewish History we cannot forget our link to the Divine and that when when God calls out to us to return, we hopefully both as individuals and as a nation, heed that call.