Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

Judaism: The Never-Dying Empire of Eternity

Paul Kennedy, a distinguished Yale scholar, wrote a fabulous book about the “Rise and Fall of Great Powers.” In this book, Kennedy’s essential argument is that superpowers tend to disintegrate because of “iron and gold”, i.e. – because of a paucity of fundamental material and economic resources and infrastructure.

The Soviet Union (not of blessed memory), is a pervasive case in point. What led to the demise of the political entity which Ronald Reagan nicknamed “An evil empire” was an economic crisis, which Mikhail Gorbachev tried to alleviate by a set of economic reforms known historically as “Perestroika” and “Glasnost.”

The result was, by 1990-1991, the disintegration and eventual collapse and downfall of the world’s biggest political entity of its time, the USSR.

Now rewind historically half a century back from the late 1980’s and the demise of the Soviet Union back to the late 1930’s.

Back in the 1930’s, when there was no Jewish State on the horizon, and our people lived at the mercy (or lack thereof) of cruel despots, no one in his right mind would dare compare the political might and magnitude of the vast Soviet Empire with the much more politically marginal and minuscule ideology of Zionism, and the Jewish political aspiration to re-achieve self-determination in the Land of Israel.

Back then, in the 1930’s, it would have been a joke in poor taste to even begin to compare the awesome and powerful Soviet Union to the yet unborn Jewish state. And today, indeed, there is no comparison…

Israel and Russia commemorated earlier this week the 25th anniversary of the renewal of their diplomatic ties in the aftermath of the Cold War. And there is no comparison, because it is Israel which supersedes Russia in virtually every objective parameter. Israel has more advanced science and technology, more medical know-how, higher living standards for its middle class, and a higher family income per household.

In addition to that, the great Russian Red Army, which in centuries past tenaciously withstood the attacks of Napoleon and the Nazis, is now learning from the IDF how to better combat the global plague of terrorism.

Today, many in the former Soviet Union diligently explore their family genealogy, in the hopes of finding some Jewish ancestry, in order to be eligible to make Aliyah, thereby giving their children the prospect of a better future in the Jewish State. Boy, how the political tables have turned since the first half of the 20th century…

And all this did not commence in the 20th century. From time immemorial, Israel has been, and continues to be, against all odds, the victory of possibility over probability.

The Jewish tenacious will-to-life outlived all of the world’s greatest empires for the last four millennia. From the might of the Pharaohs, to the monstrosities of Stalin’s USSR.

The Jewish people exist within history, and yet our ultimate national destiny transcends and goes well beyond the constraints and confinements of a given historical epoch.

We are an “Am Olam” – which means “a worldly and global people”. But it also means “An eternal people”, a G-dly people, a people striving to personify and exemplify the Almighty’s omnipresence in the world. In time, and beyond time, ours is a wondrous and timeless endeavor, a sacred enigma, for we are the never-dying empire of words and of dreams, of hope and of deliverance, for us, and for the world entire.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sessler

Dedicated to Michael Mehdyzadeh and family, with best wishes for continuous health and well-being, from the entire community with love.


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