The postwar generation has generally had it pretty good. In
the West it grew up and came of age in a time of increasing
prosperity and general calm. There have been crises in the
West and wars in Israel, but they were usually pretty short --
a few months at most. For the most part, the past half a
century has been a period of secure establishment and growth.
The ascendent social ideas were tolerance and freedom.
Although in theory these are far from the Torah ideals, in
practice their power has proven pleasant for the Jewish
people who had been generally persecuted, along with whoever
else may have been out of favor. With tolerance for our
existence and the freedom to pursue what we wanted, life
seemed pretty good.
On the whole, Jews were accepted and even admired at times
for their skills and successes. The Torah community went from
a defensive period to a period of consolidation and onwards
to expansion and increase along all fronts. Things seemed to
be getting better all the time.
Although many of the trends are continuing, the past several
years have brought many changes in unwelcome directions.
Fear has become a companion of Jews in most of the world.
There are new threats against the West, of which the Jews are
definitely a part, but even more there are serious threats
against Jews. The United Nations Conference Against Racism in
Durban exposed a strident brand of antisemitism. Although the
action there was purely verbal, it was very aggressive and
threatening. French Jews are absorbing physical attacks on
racial grounds. Antisemitism is becoming more legitimate in
England. Israel, the home of the largest concentration of
Jews in the world and perhaps even a majority of the world's
Jews, has been suffering terror and is the subject of threats
and pressure to an unprecedented degree.
Realistically, all this does not seem like a difficult period
that will soon pass, but like the beginning of a new era in
Jewish history, when the memories of Nazi Holocaust have
faded (even when it is not denied) and the world returns to
"business as usual" with respect to the Jews. Even within
this period, there will certainly be ups and downs, and we
should always pray and try to make things as good as
Mainly, we must continue, in all circumstances, with our
business which is Torah and mitzvos. The month of Nisan and
Pesach bring us welcome thoughts of rebirth and geulah
that are part of the season.
The outlook in Mitzrayim certainly was not encouraging. The
mightiest nation in the world was oppressing the Jewish
people, working them so hard they did not have a chance to
think. The people themselves had sunk very low, so low that
they almost reached the point of no return. Even after they
experienced the miracles of Shabbos Hagodol, the makkas
bechoros, the tremendous revelation and inspiration of the
night of Pesach and started to move out of Mitzrayim, they
again became trapped in what looked like a literal dead end
at the edge of Yam Suf. But then we experienced krias Yam
Suf and went on to mattan Torah, perhaps the highest
point of human existence so far.
Our business is now recalling and reliving these events, and
drawing strength and inspiration for the times ahead. May
they be short so that we are zoche to the final
Geulah in Nisan, the month of geulah.