From Grapes to WineJuly 8, 2012 - 5:00 am
“Why have you broken down its walls
so that all who pass by pick its grapes?” — Psalm 80:12
In Psalm 80, the Psalmist has a question for God. Using a grapevine as a metaphor, King David describes how God took the children of Israel out of Egypt and planted them in the Promised Land. There, they took root and flourished, covering the land with their sweet fruit. Yet, over time, the situation changed, causing the Psalmist to write: “Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?” After all that work, why has God allowed his precious vineyard to be pummelled and ravaged? Why has the God of Israel allowed His people to be all but destroyed?
The prophet Hosea, as if answering King David’s question, had this to say: “Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones. Their heart is deceitful, and now they must bear their guilt” (Hosea 10:1–2). Translation: While the Israelites blossomed and thrived in the land of Israel, their abundant blessings led them toward idolatry instead of toward God. In the place of thankfulness, they substituted forgetfulness. They forgot who had blessed them and what they were supposed to accomplish with all that they had been given.
The Lord does not punish, He corrects. And so, since success had led the people of Israel away from God’s path, He had to remove their blessings so that they would find Him once again.
The Sages point out that of all the fruit in the world, grapes – the fruit of the vine – are the most crushed and abused of all. Until the advent of technology, grapes were literally trampled upon in order to turn them into wine. But this very crushing improves the fruit to the point that the one who has crushed it is ultimately overpowered by its strength. In a great twist of irony, when man crushes grapes, he turns them into a substance that has the power to crush him!
Similarly, while the Jewish people may be the most persecuted people to ever walk the earth, it is through their oppression that they are refined. They do not suffer for nothing. Just when the world tries to crush them into the ground, that is the moment when they rise up to the top. That’s the time when they become stronger than those who wished to destroy them in the first place.
It’s true what they say: What doesn’t break you makes you stronger. When anyone tries to push you down, the joke is on them. You will only get stronger and you will learn to be wiser. When they try to crush you like grapes, you will become refined just like good wine.