Sunday, July 26, 2009

For in truth, no period lives for itself alone

I love reading, and re-reading, Rav Hirsch; he has few peers for both depth and eloquence.

R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, paragraph 234:

"Just as the Torah preserves those moments when Israel flourished, and raises as holy above other days in the year those festival days commemorating the creation of the people and its preservation so that Israel should devote itself to the remembrance and the study of the truths they posit, whereby Israel may live and learn to understand itself and dedicate itself to the fulfilment of its allotted tasks, so did our sages institute remembrance days for those moments which Israel experienced when its blossoms were seen to fall, remembrance days which summon Israel to the purification as well as to the sanctification of its life and to the proper fulfilment of its conduct of life.

"For the fathers of our people understood profoundly that the fall of the people was not the pathway to the grave. It but changed the scene for Israel's activity, summoning it to new obligations, or, rather, to another aspect of that same fulfilment of its way of living which was its 'vocation' in times of prosperity.

"They saw that as in happy days Israel received the call to revere Gd humbly and to love Him with gladness, so did Israel receive the call to be the lofty example, steadfastly to keep its faith in Gd as well as its filial piety even in the days of misfortune.

"They saw that the time of its dispersion, whose labour-pangs it experienced, was but a fatherly chastisement to teach Israel, to strip it of pleasure-seeking and self-seeking, both of which undermine Israel's fortune.

"They saw that this period had as its immediate aim a betterment and a renewal of life, with the ultimate goal of furthering the advancement of all mankind.

"They realized how necessary for that upbringing, which was to act as a guide, were warnings and correctings and challenge; and, imbued with the spirit of the Torah, they recognized an excellent means in their subjective retrospect of the past.

"For in truth, no period lives for itself alone. Generations rise and fall so that those who follow may well learn from the glow of their sunrise as well as from that of their sunset; that they may reap the fruits of the rise and the fall of those who went before, avoid their errors and go forward and upward, basing their edifice upon the virtues of their progenitors."

[This week's Haveil Havalim is here.]

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