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    A woman is leaving

    her multimillion

    -dollar mansion in

    Beverly Hills when

    a poor man

    approaches her and

    cries, “Oh ma’am, I

    haven’t eaten in three days.” To which the

    woman responds: “I am so envious of you; I

    wish had your willpower.” Three Prophets

    An intriguing Midrash states that three of the

    great Jewish personalities communicated

    their prophecies using an identical Hebrew

    term, eicha, which means “how” or “alas.”

    The first one to utter this word was Moses.

    At the beginning of this week’s portion,

    Devarim, Moses, speaking during the last

    weeks of his life, recalls how many years

    earlier he shared with his people his

    profound frustration as the leader of Israel. “I

    said to you at that time, ‘I cannot carry you

    alone…How (eicha) can I carry your

    contentiousness, your burdens, and your

    quarrels if I am all by myself ?” The second

    was Isaiah. In the opening chapter of Isaiah,

    this extraordinary man of G-d laments the

    moral degeneration of Jerusalem and its

    Jewish inhabitants 700 years after Moses’

    death . “How—eicha—has the faithful city

    become a prostitute?” Isaiah cries. “She was

    full of justice, righteousness lodged in her,

    but now murderers .” The third was

    Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s heart-wrenching book

    of Lamentations, written 200 years after

    Isaiah and depicting the bloody destruction

    of Jerusalem, opens with the word “Eicha,”

    alas. “Alas—she sits in solitude! The city

    that was great with people has become like a

    widow.” The Midrash concludes: Said Rabbi

    Levi, it is compared to a noblewoman who

    had three friends. One saw her in her

    negligence, one saw her in her recklessness,

    and one saw her in her degenerateness. So

    did Moses see Israel in their honor, and in

    their negligence, and he said, “How will I

    carry their burden alone?” Isaiah saw them

    in their recklessness, and he said “How she

    has become a prostitute…” Jeremiah saw

    them in their degenerateness, and he said,

    “How does she dwell…” Three Linked

    Messages It is logical to assume that the

    Midrash is not making a random observation

    of three people using the same term. Rather,

    the Midrash is attempting to tell us that there

    exists a subtle link between the three

    messages of Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. It

    is this connection that compelled the three

    prophets to choose the dramatic term “eicha”

    for their conversations with the people of

    Israel . On the surface, no link is

    visible. Moses was discussing the

    enormous burden of leadership;

    Isaiah, the ugliness of promiscuity;

    and Jeremiah the tragedy of loss. Yet,

    the Midrash is hinting to us that these

    three messages are not only

    intertwined but actually evolve one

    from another. The Tragedy of Silence

    What was Moses’ complaint? This

    great leader, “Whom G-d had known

    face to face,” was not lamenting his

    stressful schedule or the lack of time

    for leisure. What perturbed Moses

    was that he was the only one taking

    ultimate responsibility for the fate of the

    nation. Others were willing to assist during

    their free time, but it was only Moses who

    felt that the needs and struggles of the people

    of Israel were his own. “How (eicha) can I

    carry your contentiousness, your burdens,

    and your quarrels if I am all by myself?”

    Moses cries. If only one person is ready to

    put himself on the line in the fight for a

    better world, while others just emit a sigh

    and go on with their personal affairs, we are

    bound to crumble. The triumph of evil does

    not occur as a result of the perpetrators of

    evil per se; it happens because of the many

    ordinary men and women who don’t care

    enough to stand up for what is right. When

    ordinary people of good moral standing

    lose the courage or willingness to

    protest injustice, morality is dead. This

    is what Moses protested: the notion that

    ordinary people need not share equal

    responsibility in mending the world,

    combating immorality, and

    transforming human society into an

    abode for G-d. Aicha, says the Midrash

    elsewhere, is comprised of the same

    letters as the word Ayekah, the question

    G-d asks Adam after eating from the

    Tree of Knowledge: Where are you?!

    The Aicha becomes a call for Ayekah.

    The cry of Moses’ “How can I carry you

    alone” ultimately evolved into the

    second stage of degeneration, which

    reached its peak during the time of

    Isaiah. “How has the faithful city

    become a prostitute?” Isaiah asked.

    “She was full of justice, righteousness

    lodged in her, but now murderers.”

    How indeed? Because Moses was left

    alone on the front lines of the

    battlefield for goodness and morality.

    When multitudes of people of moral

    stature do not feel an urgent

    responsibility to combat the flames of

    hate and evil burning in their society, a

    city once full of justice becomes,

    instead, a haven for murderers; a city of

    light turns into darkness. Isaiah’s call of

    “How has the faithful city become a

    prostitute,” evolved into the third stage

    of degeneration, when Jerusalem

    destroyed itself, reaching the abyss

    during the days of Jeremiah.

    “Alas—she sits in solitude! The city

    that was great with people has become

    like a widow,” he lamented. The three

    “eicha’s” represent three levels of

    moral degeneration: Passivity,

    destruction, and isolation.

    Contemporary Jewish Silence This painful

    truth was demonstrated once again in most

    recent times, during the destruction of our

    brothers and sisters in Jerusalem and in the

    entire land of Israel, following the signing of

    the Oslo accords in 1996 and the Gaza

    withdrawal in 2005. The tragedy of Oslo was

    twofold. Israel withdrew from most of its

    own territories, facilitating the creation of a

    massive terrorist infrastructure right at its

    back door. And Israel extended incredible

    tolerance toward the terrorists, allowing

    them to continue the bloodshed. Following

    the Gaza withdrawal, leaving it vacant of

    every Jew, Gaza was transformed to

    Hamastan, committed to the destruction of

    Israel. Tens of thousands of rockets were

    launched from Gaza, targeting innocent

    civilians. Yet this was not solely the result of

    erroneous decisions by some self-deceived

    individuals on the top of the

    government—the late Yitzchak Rabin,

    Shimon Peres, Yossi Sarid, Ahud Almert

    and Ariel Sharon. Such a perverse

    perspective on good and evil could have

    been fermented only because so many decent

    and nice people in Israel and abroad

    succumbed to the temptation of remaining

    silent and politically correct. The same is

    true concerning every crisis—physical or

    spiritual—that faces our people today, from

    mass assimilation to inner conflict and

    disharmony, to domestic abuse, teenage

    despair, and the dangers of Anti-Semitism

    the world over. If we rely on “Moses” to do

    all the caring for us, our future is

    endangered. Every individual ought to lose a

    little bit of sleep because of his or her

    personal concern on how to bring

    redemption to a hurting world. “Why Did

    You Not Faint”? A moving tale: Rabbi

    Yisroel Meir Kagen, the saintly Chafatz

    Chaim (1838-1933), once dispatched a

    delegation of Jewish representatives to the

    Polish prime minister in an attempt to nullify

    a new decree against Jewish ritual

    slaughtering (shechitah). Upon their return,

    they reported to the great rabbi that their

    mission was a failure. “The minister did not

    understand our Yiddish, and the translator

    did not do a good job conveying our

    message,” the delegation reported. “Yes,

    yes,” cried the Chafatz Chaim. “But why did

    none of you faint? Had one of you been

    genuinely affected by the decree against

    Judaism as to faint, the prime minister

    would have understood you very well,” he