Sealing of Judgment
October 19, 2000
© 2000 Light to the Nations, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights
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
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
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
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