The tumultuous record of Jewish history has led many to wonder how Jews can remain faithful to the Torah. But the very exiles and persecutions that might shake our faith are mentioned in the Torah (Leviticus 26) with a sense of inevitability: not if, but when.
The continual exile among foreign nations* is declared in Leviticus 26:33, “and I will scatter you among the heathens.” One can even read of the crisis in faith that comes from exile in the despairing words of Leviticus 26:36, “Upon them that are left alive of you, I will send a faintness of heart.”
The concept of hester panim, the hidden face of God, is an important aspect of the Jewish belief in free will. Throughout all events – good and bad – God remains the Guardian of the Jews, even when we cannot see His role. This He asserts in Leviticus 26:44, “And yet, for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and to break My covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God.”
The sages interpret the separate parts of Leviticus 26:44, finding within it allusions to some of the conquerors amidst the exile. “‘I did not reject them’ in the days of the Greeks; ‘neither did I abhor them’-in the days of Nebuchadnezzar (Babylonians); ‘to destroy them utterly’-in the days of Haman; ‘and to break my covenant with them’-in the days of the Persians…‘For I am the Lord their God’-in the time to come, when no nation or people will be able to subject them” (Megillah 11a).
*Jewish autonomy in the State of Israel today is still considered to be within a greater exile because the Jewish people remain without a Temple.
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