12 Adar 5772
The following is an essay I wrote ten years ago which I think is very relevant to today.
TURN AND RETURN
When viewed in light of one's own lifespan and experiences, history appears to be linear with a point of origin, progressing from less-developed to more-developed. However, if we lift our eyes beyond this narrow focus, we will discover clues which hint at the circular nature of history.
From the myriad rotating spheres which revolve in elliptical pathways through the heavens to the orbit of electrons spinning around the nucleus of the most elemental atom, and from the never ending progression of the seasons to the daily rising and setting of the sun and the constant wax and wane of the moon, all of creation alludes to this.
We see evidence of this circularity also in the obervance of our religious festivals and with the completion and reinauguration of the yearly Torah reading. Furthermore, if we view the lifecycle accurately, we will find that rather than a linear progression from birth through death, instead it is "From dust you were created and to dust you will return"---a complete cycle.
The significance of this idea is best summed up by two well-known proverbs: "What goes around comes around." And, "He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it." Our grasp of this concept could be critical in shaping our response to the awesome events unfolding in our time, enabling us to make wise decisions and determining, in no small measure, not only our chances for success, but possibly our very survival in the coming days.
One example (of many) of the circular nature of history that comes immediately to mind from our Torah involves the initial attempts by the Children of Israel to enter Eretz Israel. We all know the story of how when the time came to enter and conquer the land, ten of the twelve spies returned from their foray with a negative report. Remember how the people’s acceptance of this bad report resulted in failure and delay of entry until the following generation?
Our Torah tells us how the children of that failed generation had to virtually repeat the scenario of the first, right up to the preliminary sending of scouts into the land, but with major changes that, in the end, gave them success and victory. This is the understanding of the phrase which we read in last week's sedra: "... understand the years of generation after generation...." (Devarim 32:7)
“Remember the days of the world, understand the years of generation after generation. Ask you father and he will relate it to you, your elders and they will tell you.” (Devarim 32:7)
REMEMBER THE DAYS: what He (G-d) did to previous generations who provoked Him to anger.
THE YEARS OF GENERATION: so that you become conscious of what might happen in the future, that He has the power to bestow good upon you and to make you inherit the Days of Moshiach and the World-to-Come.
This lesson is instructive for our day as well. The failure of our predecessors to establish a Torah government, expell the Arabs from Eretz Israel, and commence the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash in the immediate aftermath of the Six Days War has resulted in another wilderness wandering while another generation expires. We may be assured by the lessons of the past that another opportunity will arise and it will be our responsibility to make that tikun. It is therefore crucial to understand where they went wrong and not to hesitate to make the corrections which will ensure success and victory for our children.
It might be possible to say that success came too quickly and too easily to the Sinai generation and as a result they were too immature (as a people) and inexperienced to handle it. The same might be said of the generation that fought the Six Days War. How many of them were thinking solely in terms of survival, with not a hint of the possibility of conquering Yehuda, Shomron, and Yerushalayim? Just as the wilderness generation doubted and feared because of their inexperience with freedom, the Six Days War generation made the same errors because of their inexperience with military power and self-government.
...A cursory reading of Shoftim reveals a sad and tragic cycle:
Our national cycle:
It makes me wonder how many more times we will have to go round and start anew - fixing one thing, only to make a new error which sends us round once again.
It's very possible that this is the last generation of the pre-messianic era. Many rabbis say that this is the last gilgul (from the word galgal meaning a wheel), or reincarnation, of the Dor Ha'Deah - the generation which left Egypt and experienced the first redemption. Now, we are back to experience the final redemption.
I'd say that's definitely coming full circle.