Wednesday, July 20, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

A dear friend of mine told me a while ago that he was going to Europe for vacation and invited me to join him. He said his travel plans included Paris and Italy. Since I have absolutely no interest in visiting Paris and Italy didn’t hold much appeal, I was inclined to say no thanks.

Of course, since I have to put out the paper every week it was highly unlikely that I could join him in Europe even if I wanted to, but you know how it is when you start daydreaming about escaping.

And then I thought about the fact that Rome is in Italy… and I changed my mind. There’s a reason I would like to go to Rome. I told my friend that I’d join him for a couple days of R and R, after printing the paper.

“What changed your mind?” he asked me.

I told him that it hit me that Rome is the site of the arch Titus Harasha erected to commemorate his victory over the Jews of Eretz Yisroel. On the arch are carved images of Jews who had been captured by the Romans and taken to Rome as slaves. The Romans forced them to carry aloft the keilim of the Beis Hamikdosh, and the images of broken Jews shouldering the massive weight of the menorah and other keilim are carved into the Arch of Titus.

“I would like to stand under that arch and proclaim to Titus that we are still around,” I told my friend. “We are alive, well and thriving, while he lies forgotten in history’s dustbin.”

Titus ruled the world in his time. The Roman Empire was at the pinnacle of world power and the Romans thought it would be that way forever. How wrong they were!

The Romans subdued almost all the civilized regions of the world, crushing Eretz Yisroel with particular cruelty. Their barbarism earned them eternal damnation. The people of their day thought that no one would ever arise to challenge them.

Yet today when you mention Titus, most people have no clue who you are talking about. Parts of Rome today are like a giant outdoor museum, featuring relics of the ancient past. Tour guides show you the great Roman aqueducts and the coliseum where Roman gladiators killed each other and where the Romans forced their captives to fight beasts of prey to provide sport for thousands of cheering spectators. It is all gone and forgotten.

The glory that was Rome and the arrogant Caesars are all the stuff of history, studied in order to get a passing grade on a test in school and then promptly forgotten. Today they are nothing more than tourist attractions. People who need to get away from the real world travel to Rome to inspect the sights and photograph them for the folks back home.

I wanted to stand there and tell him that am yisroel is triumphant. I wanted to stand there and tell him that Torah is studied loudly and proudly across the world in a variety of languages and dialects. In most places in the world today, Jews practice their religion freely, in peace. Despite the rise in anti-Semitism in certain quarters, Jews continue observing the Torah and practicing the lifestyle that Titus was convinced he had suppressed forever.

I wanted to stand there and tell him that my mother a”h escaped from his continent ahead of his descendent, Hitler, ym”sh , and lived to raise a family who carry forward the legacy of their forefathers. Titus thought we were done. But it was he whose life is today a mere footnote in history. His life was a waste and his legacy dissipated. By contrast, Jews are here to stay.

Since the time of Titus, many have taken on his failed mission and sought our annihilation. The list of villains who have tormented us is endless, but they have all been thrown into the trash heap of history.

There were many instances in history when it appeared as if Jews and Judaism were about to be wiped off the face of the earth. Had nature been permitted to take its course, that might have been our destiny. But we have a Divine promise that we will never be entirely decimated. As bad as it seems, as hopeless as things appear, we shall overcome.

People tend to become overwhelmed by events unfolding before them. They read in the paper that Sharon is turning over Gaza to the corrupt leaderless PA and they fear that it will turn into a terrorist haven, from which terrorists will attack Israel non-stop. They fear that without the settlements, Israel’s security will suffer and the nation will be completely vulnerable.

The truth is, al pi derech hateva, they are correct, but they are forgetting that our people are not ruled by teva. Were we ruled by nature, Eretz Yisroel would have been overrun by now. Surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction who ganged up together in several wars to carry out that aim, the small country miraculously fought them back and managed to capture territory from them.

Most of the world despises the Jewish nation, yet it persists in surviving and flourishing. The UN and other international institutions curse and condemn it, yet the small country thrives.

Enemies from inside and out do everything in their power to bring the Jews of Israel to their knees, yet they are unsuccessful. Terrorists take their young, strap bombs on them and send them onto Jewish buses in a depraved Molech-like ritual, yet despite the mayhem they cause, our people endure.

Neither the settlements nor the army guarantee our survival in Eretz Yisroel. That fact should be so plainly obvious to any honest observer.

A determined group of settlers has turned the country on its head and overtaxed the army with its continuous regimen of demonstrations. The people in charge of securing this land are at their wit’s end as they attempt to subdue young men and women armed only with orange bands. Can it be that these same individuals are keeping Israel’s borders safe? Can anyone really think that these commanders can prevent 10,000 rockets from being fired at Israel from Lebanon? Is it only due to their actions that terror died down in the Holy Land?

While many of them fight mightily and their contribution to the stability of the country is not to be minimized, without the protection of the Shomer Yisroel, how long would we be able to hold up the fort?

It is wrenching to see 9,000 Jews thrown out of their homes. It is awfully sad to see the pictures of the beautiful towns they established in Gaza over the past 30 years and know that soon, they will all be dust. But we must remember the lesson of Titus’ arch.

It is not the arches, not the highways, nor the edifices which we erect in our land which guarantee our existence there. It is not the Knesset nor is it Ariel Sharon who determines our destiny. It is not the number of soldiers, tanks or international treaties that guarantee our survival there.

In these days of Tamuz we ought to remember that it is the Shomer Yisroel who protects us. It is He who determines whether we escape danger and live, or chas veshalom find ourselves on a doomed bus or the site of an attack.

We know that it is in the merit of observing the Torah that we keep Eretz Yisroel. When we disobeyed its commandments we were evicted and Titus was empowered. When we repent and strengthen our observance and support of Torah, Hashem strengthens us and we are granted the ability to prosper.

And though I hope my friend is enjoying his vacation, I decided that we don’t have to travel to Rome to proclaim that message; nor do we have to travel there to learn it. It is self-evident. If we absorb that message now and let it re-educate us as shiva assar b’Tamuz is upon us, we can still merit to celebrate together in the Bais Hamikdosh on Tisha B’Av.


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