Welcome to 15th Century Spain: a post-mortem

All right, I’ll say it — I have hope.  And here’s why:

On March 31st, 1492, the Jews of Spain learned that they had three months before their lives would be turned unimaginably upside down.  They had been ordered to choose between either leaving their country and their homes or conversion to Christianity.  The Edict of Expulsion had set the date for July 31st.

However, when King Ferdnand learned that Tisha B’Av, the Jews’ national day of mourning, would arrive two days later, he extended the deadline to August 2nd, believing that this would break the heart and the spirit of the Jews.

In fact, his decree had the opposite effect, giving the Jews hope that the Almighty was indeed running the world, that their expulsion was not caused by the whim of yet another capricious ruler but part of the master plan designed and directed by the Master of the World.

With that in mind, the following post means something very different today from what it meant yesterday.  Don’t miss it.

Here’s the punch line:  Obama’s extraordinary rise from an unknown and undistinguished local politician to capture the White House in four short years defies natural explanation.  Moreover, the single moment that marks his arrival on the national scene was his speech at the Democratic National Convention, on July 27, 2004.  According to the Hebrew calendar, it was Tisha B’Av.

It’s difficult not to take note of obvious historical parallels, even at the risk of being accused of hyperbole or fear-mongering:

In retrospect, historians have come to view what we call World War I and World War II not as two separate wars but as a single global conflict with a twenty-year armistice in the middle.  The political and economic causes of WWII grew directly out of WWI, and WWI began in the summer of 1914 — on Tisha B’Av.

Two decades later, under the leadership of a charismatic leader with no credentials who had never accomplished anything of significance, a crushed and humiliated German state grew in six short years into the most powerful military force in the world.  The next half-decade would see the devastation of Europe, the deaths of tens of millions, and the extermination of a third of the Jewish population of the world.

This is not to suggest by any means that Barak Obama is likely to perpetrate atrocities or has an agenda of either injustice or persecution.  He may indeed be a well-intentioned man who sincerely believes that he can bring peace and prosperity to a troubled country and a troubled world.  But consider the lessons history has taught again and again:  that the diplomacy of naivete will be perceived, correctly, as weakness, that those who seek peace are easily manipulated by those who have no desire for peace, that Utopian visions inevitably disintegrate into social and political chaos.  Then consider Hegel’s observation that the great lesson of history is that no one ever learns from it.

No one on earth knows what this presidency will bring, or what might have happened had the election gone the other way.  Palgei mayim lev melech b’yad HaShem, says King Solomon — Like streams of water is the heart of the king in the hands of the Almighty.  Our ultimate consolation comes from our conviction that all human events are guided by the King who reigns over kings, and that rulers who appear to wield supreme power are nothing more than pawns moved from square to square by Divine decree.

The Talmud recounts how the sages could not contain their astonishment when Rabbi Akiva laughed upon seeing the ruins of the Temple and Jerusalem.  But he explained that, since the prophecy of utter devastation has already come true, then we should rejoice at how much closer are we to the Ultimate Redemption.

You have comforted us, Akiva, they replied.  You have comforted us.

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: