By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
A parade of frightening news has been emanating from Washington and state capitals over the past months, yet we sit by apathetically and involve ourselves with trivialities.
In Eretz Yisroel, the Olmert and Kadima gang are finally out of power, yet the peace charade continues. The young American president presses on with the discredited peace agenda, and together with his secretary of state, chief of staff and other minions seeks to force the new Israeli prime minister into suicidal concessions.
Five years ago, President Bush laid out his plan for peace in Israel. The first US president to call for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, he called on “the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror.” He said, “I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.” Of course, he added that the “Palestinian state will never be created by terror – it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempts to preserve the status quo.”
And his lofty visions and inspiring words made it even worse.
Ariel Sharon pulled Israel out of Gaza, saying that it would bring the hoped-for peace with the Palestinian people. His legacy was carried forward by Ehud Olmert, a man blinded by ambition and hubris.
Just as we and many others predicted, the Gaza withdrawal accomplished little more than to provide terrorists with a new platform from which to launch a jihad against Israel.
As per the instruction of Bush and then Secretary of State Rice, democratic elections were held in “Palestine” and Hamas was permitted to run, though it had not forsworn violence and refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Israel didn’t think Hamas would win anyway – another intelligence failure – and Rice posited that even if they did win, governing would force them to act responsibly and come around to the American position.
Needless to say, they were all wrong.
The Arabs don’t like PA President Mahmoud Abbas much more than the Israelis do. He is a farcical character, a useful idiot, used to foment the lie that there is a Palestinian peace partner. A lackey of Arafat, he did nothing to move his people towards peace and moderation. PA textbooks are still full of incitement to hatred. His government is corrupt and inept. All his negotiations with Israel are and were a charade.
No one asks the obvious question of why Israel should make peace with a nation sworn to its destruction and which rejects peace deals signed by so-called leaders who don’t represent anyone.
And now that Bush is gone and there is another president in his place, expect the pressure on Israel to get even stronger. He is reversing long-standing US policy and abrogating promises that were made to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by President George W Bush in writing in 2004. As the US abrogates its previous understandings, it demands that Israel honor obligations it made predicated upon those understandings and Arab reciprocity, which of course never happened.
Obama may actually believe the leftist propaganda and think that by negotiating with America’s enemies, a new day will dawn when the sun will always shine and murderers will put down their tools of terror.
As these lines are being written, Obama is preparing for a speech to be delivered in Cairo in which he will stretch out a hand of friendship to the Muslim world where dictators keep their subjects poor and backward as they blame the Jews for their troubles. It is all the fault of Israel, they say. The tiny country of a few million surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arabs in countries all across the horizon, is the cause of all the world’s problems. If only Israel would carve away some of its limited land and give it to a nomadic people sworn to its destruction, peace would rein in the Middle East, long-term calm would result, the world-wide recession would come to a crashing halt, and global warming would cease to threaten the future of mankind.
Last week, while we were celebrating Shavuos, there was another manifestation of the Chazal which teaches that the mountain on which the Torah was given is named Sinai, because when the Torah was delivered to Am Yisroel, a sinah of the Jewish people descended upon the world along with it. An inexplicable animosity began that day, and despite all the progress the world has made since then, the primitive detestation of The Chosen People is as strong as ever
Hosting the unrepentant terrorist Abbas, whose poll numbers are even lower than New York Governor David Paterson’s, the president made sure to say that he is insisting that Israel stop the settlements, dismantle the outposts and work to alleviate the hardships that the Palestinians are forced to endure due to Israel’s security concerns.
Netanyahu was here last week and promised to move ahead with a three-track peace process as soon as Abbas would recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish country. Abbas refuses to do that. But he wants peace. He really does. Emboldened by Obama’s talk, Abbas now says that he will not talk to Netanyahu until the settlements stop. The Washington Post reported that Abbas is counting on the new US administration to pressure Netanyahu to the point that his government falls and Livni takes over to hand him what he desires.
We read this and we wonder, what is going on here? How can it be that people who are supposed to be so smart act so foolishly? How is it that a candidate who promised to be Israel’s best friend, who raked in Jewish money and votes, is going down this failed road?
Our concern is not just about the Mid-East peace process, it is also in regards to Iran, which threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Does Obama really think that he can sweet talk them into forsaking their genocidal ambitions?
The world that first defeate fascism and then communism is now threatened by Islamic totalitarianism. This has a special message for us as Jews.
To the extent that we recognize that all that transpires is by Divine decree and plan, Hashem watches over and protects us. The sefer Chovos Halevavos states, at the beginning of Shaar Habitachon, that Hashem removes his protection from one who puts his faith in others and only protects those who place their faith in Him.
In Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh, the Chovos Halevavos states that one who puts his faith in Hashem is rewarded. Hashem “opens his gates of understanding, reveals to him secrets of His chochmah, places an eye on him to guide him and will not abandon him only to his own powers and abilities.”
The Rambam in Hilchos Taanis writes that it is a mitzvas asei to cry out and blow shofros for every tzarah which befalls the Jewish community. This is one of the paths to teshuvah. When a tragedy befalls the community, everyone must acknowledge that it is due to their sins. However, if instead of crying out they ascribe the threat facing the community to “the way the world works,” such an attitude is an outgrowth of the middah of achzorius and ends up deepening and multiplying the tragedy.
The entire purpose of tragedy is to inspire us to do teshuvah.
The Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo writes that the purpose of creation was for man to acknowledge that Hashem created the world and to serve Him wholeheartedly. This is also the purpose of raising our voice in prayer, the purpose of botei kneisiyos, and the reason for the zechus of tefillah b’tzibbur – to enable people to publicly gather and acknowledge their Creator.
We must realize, says the Ramban, the foundation of the Torah is that everything which occurs in this world is a miracle, brought about by Hashem. Nothing happens at random. Nothing can be attributed to the forces of nature or “the way the world works.”
Someone who doesn’t believe this has no share in Toras Moshe, the Ramban affirms. People who observe the mitzvos will succeed, and those who don’t will be punished with destruction.
He also teaches that the hidden miracles that occur daily are more evident when you examine the actions that affect the entire community. As the posuk says (Devorim, 29:23-24), “And the nations of the world will say, why did Hashem do this to the Holy Land? And they will answer, because the Jews let go of the covenant that was made with Hashem, the G-d of their forefathers.”
Says the Ramban, this is foretelling that the destruction of Eretz Yisroel will be understood by the nations as a punishment for the Jews forsaking the Torah.
We have often cited the words of Rav Chaim Vital in his peirush on sefer Tehillim, where he writes that the final golus will be golus Yishmoel. The exile that will take place under the Yishmoelim will be worse than any previous golus. The Yishmoelim will go from being tent-dwelling desert nomads to ruling over the entire world and Israel, and they will cause us unprecedented grief. They will seek to wipe us off the face of the earth, and without Divine intervention, they would be able to implement their murderous designs.
At that time, we will cry out to Hashem and we will hear our cries and prayers. Hence the name Yishmoel, composed of two words, Yishma and Keil, meaning Hashem will hear, according to the Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer (32).
What is happening now with the offspring of Yishmoel is preordained. In order for us to prevail over Yishmoel, we must raise our voices in prayer. His name does not hint that if we are strong and battle him with chivalry, we will defeat him. His name does not hint that if we engage him in diplomacy, we will outwit him. His name proclaims that the only way to defeat him is through tefillah.
We can sit and pontificate all day about what Obama is doing wrong and how he misses the boat, and it won’t make any difference. Everything that happens is from Hashem, especially when dealing with Eretz Yisroel, about which the posuk (Devorim 11:12) states, “Eretz asher Hashem Elokecha doreish osah tomid einei Hashem Elokecha boh meireishis hashanah ve’ad acharis shanah.”
The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (2b) states that at the end of time, when Moshiach comes, the nations of the world will stand up and protest the punishment they are about to receive for their treatment of the Jews. They will all proclaim that everything they did was only to benefit the Jews and their service of G-d and Torah.
The Gemara says that Poras, Persia, will cry out that everything they did was to help the Jews. “We built many bridges, conquered many towns and waged war,” they will say, “to enable the Jews to learn Torah.”
We understand the grounds for claiming that they built bridges and other infrastructure to enable the study of Torah, but how does waging war help the Jews learn Torah?
Perhaps this can be understood to mean that they waged war in order to scare the Jews into doing teshuvah and returning to Torah study.
Poras, Persia, is the present day state of Iran. When the ruler of that country rises up and repeatedly proclaims, publicly, to the entire world that he intends to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, who in their right mind would doubt that he means to do just that? When he continues his maniacally feverish race to arm himself with nuclear weapons to carry out his bloody intentions, the world stands by and pretends to engage in a process to curtail his ambitions. Yet, he continues on, every day getting closer to attaining his goal.
We must raise our voices in passionate prayer that Hashem spare us from his evil intents.
We should use every opportunity to study more Torah, better ourselves and do more for the downtrodden to create more zechuyos for our people.
We have written previously about the problems of abuse and the empathy we must display for the poor victims who, through no fault of their own, suffer lives of pain and anguish. The slew of letters to the editor since the publishing of a landmark column on that topic rip at our hearts and minds when we realize the levels of distress prevalent in our very own community.
We must open our hearts to all who suffer and seek to aid by assisting them any way we can.
There are so many causes we can involve ourselves in. The economic recession has affected so many people we know. Countless families are without a breadwinner and cannot pay their bills. Once proud people are barely hanging on. Rabbeim and moros are not being paid. We should be doing more to bring our resources together to aid people who don’t know where the next dollar will come from.
To improve the world we live in, we must do more to ensure a certain level of morality in the society that surrounds us. We cannot assume that the laws of the land and its mores won’t affect us; they all have an insipient way of creeping in and spreading the rot to us. We’ve seen it with feminism and the creeping affect it is having upon Orthodoxy. Years ago we were told to ignore it, because it won’t affect us, but tragically, we have found the reverse to be true. And now, as it gets closer and closer, we still see no one rising up to say that enough is enough.
As society goes down the tubes, as politicians promote their radical agendas, we cannot ignore what is happening. We must let them know that we cannot support candidates who vote for judges who don’t hew to the constitution and do all they can to supplant the Judeo-Christian moral standards that this country was founded upon.
Most of all, we must arm ourselves with the weapons of the spirit bequeathed to us by Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.