The Greatness of a Human Being-Kinah 21
“Terror rolls over me, pursues my path like the wind, and my rescue like a cloud passes on (Job 30:15).” You chase as the wind the men who are noble hearted and who should be the instruments of my deliverance. You scatter and make to pass as clouds the men who are noble hearted and through whom salvation should come to me; as it is said, “How has my Master covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in His anger, and cast down from heaven to earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not His footstool in the day of His anger (Lamentations 2:1).” [Midrash Eichah 1.1.2]
Kinah #21 describes the martyrdom of the Ten Sages who were martyred by the Romans in the middle of the second century. It is our lament that we experienced God depriving us of the very people who could have led us to salvation.
I often wonder why the Romans allowed the people such direct access to these great rabbis while they were being tortured and killed. It seems that the Romans wanted us to see our leaders as regular human beings, who when suffering, were no different from us.
What the Romans failed to understand was that it was the very humanity of these people that connected us with them. We knew that they were people, and represented what a human being could become. We do not lament the loss of leaders with extraordinary powers; we mourn the loss of great people who can teach us through example what a human being can achieve and become. A people that can remember and live with the awareness of the potential of a human being, will find the key to salvation. The cloud is the confusion that comes when we stop seeing these leaders as human beings who achieved greatness, and we begin believing that they have extraordinary powers that are inaccessible to us. The cloud is the despair we experience when we stop believing that we can find the key to salvation within ourselves.
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