Just outside the Knesset, a colossal menorah stands proudly. Featuring sculptures of key moments in Jewish history, it was presented to the fledgling state of Israel by the British Parliament. Prominently sculpted on the menorah are Zechariah’s immortal words, from this week’s haftarah: “This is the word of the Lord … not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
The 21st century has seen exponential technological development and expansion of scientific knowledge. Human beings effortlessly communicate with individuals residing many thousands of miles away. Satellites are dispatched to land on distant planets and distances that once took months to cross can now be traversed in hours.
Amid this progression, a considerable hubris took hold of mankind. We started fearing the future less. No illness seemed incurable, no feat was deemed insurmountable and no goal unattainable.
It seemed our great cities would perpetually be thronging, that planes would always be crossing our skies and that venues of mass entertainment would never shut their doors. Deadly pandemics seemed a thing of the past, akin to pre-World War II historical oddities, with no place in the new millennium.
How this deadly pandemic has shaken our unwavering faith in science and technology! Humanity has watched in incredulous consternation as mankind was caught unprepared and left unarmed against a disease that medical knowledge and science cannot presently cure and for which an effective vaccine remains elusive.
Powerful nations have been crippled and left to cogitate on their impotence. Travel has been brought to a standstill, our everyday routines have suddenly ceased and we are forced to contemplate. Jeremiah’s call comes to mind: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might… But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me.”
These events, unequalled in modern times, should teach us all that faith must be placed in Almighty God alone and in nothing else. Zechariah’s words, appearing prominently on Israel’s national emblem, outside its most powerful law-making body, send a particularly germane message to all mankind.
They are an everlasting reminder that it is not by our strength nor the power of our own hands, but by God’s spirit alone that our lives are given meaning and our futures assured.