LTTN med xp logo The Final Sealing of Judgment

October 19, 2000

© 2000 Light to the Nations, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved
Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles, is called "the time of our joy." The Torah specifically commands us to experience this joy: "And you shall be joyful in your festival, and you shall be only joyful." But what is the true meaning and source of this joy? The central theme of this season is the pure happiness of having a relationship with G-d. Thus the Festival of Sukkot represents the greatest secret of the Jewish people’s inexplicable tenacity of survival, and the essence of her faith: her utterly unique and inexorable bond with G-d. Following the cleansing, awesome experience of Yom Kippur, the Jew goes out into his booth, symbol of Divine love. Moving from the comfort and security of home, "every citizen in Israel" sits in the Sukkah booth, taking up residence in a temporary dwelling, thanking G-d and recalling His constant, enveloping presence. 
 
But this holiday season has been different than others. It has been difficult for us to fulfill the commandment of being joyful. Yet despite the painful reality of our situation, this is just what G-d expects from us. The events of the past two weeks are part of Israel’s great spiritual struggle.
 
Tonight is Hoshanna Rabba, the "Day of Great Salvation," and according to Jewish tradition, this is the time when the final judgment for mankind is sealed and set in motion.
 
This night is truly one of the holiest and most spiritually powerful times of the year. Because G-d’s awesome judgment for each and every man is delivered on this night, it is customary to remain awake all night long, and to engage in Torah study and prayer until morning. Tonight, the great kabbalists teach, is literally the "last chance" for repentance. But even one who was not sealed in the Book of Life on Yom Kippur (G-d forbid) could reverse that decision tonight, through sincere repentance.
 
The past two weeks have seen armed Palestinian police officers engaging soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces all over the country, an uprising of heretofore "loyal" Israeli Arabs, the desecration of Jewish holy sites, and the cold-blooded murder of Jews. Yet the international media has chosen to focus on the noble and legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people. The same media that focuses on the high casualty rate of Palestinian children, chooses to ignore the Palestinian Authority’s cynical manipulation of young boys, who are encouraged to participate in murderous riots and who have been taught in school about the glory of destroying all the Jews.
 
At the same time, Jewish children in the settlement of Psagot near Ramallah had been going to sleep with sandbags around their beds, for the Palestinian policemen of Ramallah spent each evening firing into the doors and windows of Jewish homes.
 
In Shechem (Nablus), the tomb of our patriarch Joseph was attacked and the twelve soldiers inside were trapped inside. Israel, fearful of using too much force, refrained from evacuating a wounded solider, bleeding inside from wounds inflicted by the Palestinian policemen. The soldier died; the tomb of Joseph was burned and razed to the ground. Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, wearing his prayer shawl, was brutally murdered the following Shabbat, on his way to the tomb. His funeral procession was held under heavy fire from Palestinian policemen; the IDF needed tanks to protect the mourners.
 
Many more attacks against Jews took place that were not reported. The Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo has become a battle zone, with automatic weapons fire being directed into its homes from a nearby Palestinian village. Tanks and barriers have taken up position there. On the roads of Judea and Samaria, ambulances are routinely shot upon; roads were closed periodically due to gunfire (at this writing a number of roads are again closed). The ancient synagogue in Jericho was burned; Palestinian policemen prevented Palestinian firefighters from reaching the site. But all else seems to pale in significance when compared to the bloodthirsty mobs that savagely murdered two Israeli reserve soldiers who lost their way. This was done in the Police Station in Ramallah, under the eyes of and with the participation of the Palestinian Police. Their bodies were dehumanized, desecrated and burned. The wife of one of the soldiers phoned his cell phone. Someone answered it and said "We’re murdering your husband now."
 
Are we, as we read in the Torah portion (Deut. 32:28), "a nation without understanding?"
 
At Sharm A Sheikh, an "agreement" was reached that called for the cessation of all hostilities. There was nothing new in this agreement; it contained a reiteration of security arrangements included in the original Oslo agreement...that have not been kept. This agreement, whose implementation is to be overseen by the CIA, calls upon Israel to pull back to the positions it held before the violence began. It also calls upon Arafat to order his armed police and militiamen to cease all violence, and to cease incitement. However almost 48 hours later the incitement over official Palestinian media continues...as does the violence.
 
Many attacks took place today; last night a bus of school children was delivered from disaster by a miracle, as a roadside charge was detonated and automatic weapons were fired upon it. In the time elapsed since the agreement was made, Prime Minister Barak has expressed doubts as to whether Arafat will honor the agreement.
 
But let us doubt no longer. At this very hour, a horrible drama is taking place in the area of Mount Ebal, near Nablus in Samaria. A group of Israelis, on a holiday tour, are pinned down by Palestinian gunfire. So far we know that one of the wounded Israelis has died, and at least four more are wounded, three in critical condition and two unconscious. For the past five hours, this group—including women and babies— has been trapped under fire. So far the army has been reluctant to use force to aid in their rescue. Is this because of world opinion? Lest Israel be perceived as breaking the agreement? Is this lack of action to save Jewish lives in order to salvage the "peace" process? The awful nightmare of Joseph’s Tomb, when an Israeli soldier was allowed to bleed to death so as not to inflict too many Palestinian casualties, is being repeated at this moment.
 
Earlier today an explosion occurred in Bethlehem in a building used by the Palestinian police. Initial reports told that this explosion was caused by a gas balloon that malfunctioned. It was reported that two Palestinian officers had been killed and there were many wounded. Israel immediately offered assistance in the tragedy. This assistance was flatly declined. Only later was it learned that this was no gas balloon, but a bomb that was being prepared for a terrorist attack against Israel, that went off prematurely in the faces of the would-be perpetrators...our "partners" in peace, the Palestinian police.
 
Tonight, the night of repentance and prayer, the verdict is sealed...for good or for bad. So too may the verdict of the "peace process" that has brought about the murder of so many Jews, be sealed and dismantled. And may we merit to true repentance and to true peace, to the Sukkah of peace.  In the words of the prayers which we shall recite at dawn, "Save Your people and bless Your heritage! May these words which I have supplicated before the L-rd, be near to the L-rd our G-d, by day and by night; that He bring about justice for His people, Israel...that all the peoples of the earth shall know that the L-rd is G-d; there is no other."
 
Rabbi Chaim Richman
THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE