The warning is meant to be taken literally, but it also has a metaphorical meaning. For this is exactly what we tend to do. It’s at moments when we are not seeing clearly that we generally pass judgment on others, and even on ourselves.
Rabbis are not immune from this tendency. A rabbi is tempted, when he sees people transgressing the Torah or deliberately misunderstanding it, to want to give up on his community.
That the people are being unfair to the Torah and to their own Jewish identity, that’s undeniable. But this may not be the moment to form a firm conclusion. When the rabbi has regained his equanimity, and his sense of humour, he is likely to feel less angry and to say, as he probably has so often in the past, “I can see there is still work for me to do in bringing Torah to my community”.
The sages often speak of the tinnok shenishbah – “the child that was captured”. In some ways it is analogous to the Australian debate about the “Stolen Generations” – Aborigines taken from their parents to be reared without their ancestral culture. In recent Jewish history there were “stolen” children who, left with non-Jews for protection during the Holocaust, were not always returned afterwards.
In a different sense we have often suffered from external forces, ideas and philosophies which prevented us from understanding and experiencing the true riches of Judaism from within. That is what prevents many a Jew from thinking in an authentically Jewish way.
That’s why the rabbi must not let the cloudy day get the better of him but wait a little until he can say once more, “There’s still work for me to do”.