No nation under the sun has been so persecuted as the Jews. No ethnic group has been expelled from so many lands and territories as the Jews. No other people has had its blood shed, time and again, as have the People of Israel.
This fact is even more amazing in the light of the Torah’s explicit prophecy that this is precisely the fate that will befall them:
And these curses shall come upon you, pursuing you and overtaking you, so as to destroy you, because you hearkened not to the voice of the L-rd, your G-d, to observe His commandments and His statutes …
They will be a sign and a proof to you and your children forever, because you did not serve the L-rd, your G-d …
How often, during Israel’s long exile, was “each day’s curse greater than the day before it!” New, harsher measures were enacted year after year. Jews were summarily dismissed from posts they had held for years. Their civil rights were annulled. Heavy taxes were imposed on them, together with duties and tariffs that made it impossible to earn even a minimal income.
They were ordered to live within ghettos, to wear special, “Jewish” garments and adorn them with a yellow badge of shame. They were sent into exile and ordered to convert on pain of death. They suffered the tortures of the Inquisition, and were forced to witness thousands of volumes of their sacred writings being torched in huge public bonfires. Again and again, they were accused of heinous crimes: partaking of gentile blood, desecrating the holy wafer, poisoning the wells, aiding and abetting the enemy, and much more.
Despite it all, they are here yet today. There is only one logical explanation for the Jews’ continued existence: Divine intervention.
“But despite all this, even when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not be so repulsed by them, nor weary of them, that I would destroy them and annul My covenant with them, for I am the L-rd their G-d.
This promise of Divine protection is the key to Jewish survival. Even though individual Jews will indeed suffer, the Jewish People, as a nation, will never die!
Behold, I am bringing upon you a nation from afar, O House of Israel …
It is a powerful nation, an ancient nation, a nation whose language you will not know, and you will not understand what they say.
Its quiver is like an open grave; they are all mighty men.
It will consume your harvest and your bread;
they will consume your sons and your daughters;
it will consume your sheep and your cattle;
it will consume your vines and fig trees;
it will impoverish your fortified cities on which you depend, by the sword.
But even in those days, declares G-d, I will not annihilate you.
Each year, at the Seder table, we read the Passover Haggadah and once again thank G-d for fulfilling His eternal promise:
“Blessed is He Who keeps His promise … And it is this (promise) which has stood by our forefathers and us; for not only one (enemy) has risen up against us, to destroy us, but in every generation, they rise up against us to annihilate us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hand.”
At the onset of the twentieth century, the Russian author, Leo Tolstoy, came to a similar conclusion:
“The Jew is the symbol of eternity. Pogroms and massacres have not destroyed him, nor have the sword and the fires of the Inquisition wiped him off the face of the earth. The Jew, who was the first to proclaim the Word of G-d, who for so long guarded the words of the prophets, and who passed them on to the rest of mankind – this nation cannot cease to exist. The Jew is eternal, the very symbol of eternity.”
The Holocaust in Europe, which saw the destruction of a third of the Jewish People, is another proof of the perpetuity of the Jewish Nation. The extent of the calamity is unparalleled in the history of mankind. It defies description. But G-d’s promise, “I shall not make an end of you” is more powerful than any blow a human hand might deliver.
The Roman emperor Hadrian said to Rabbi Joshua ben Chananyah: “How great is the sheep which survives amidst seventy wolves.” Answered Rabbi Joshua: “How great is the Shepherd Who protects it.”
Midrash Esther 10:11