A Tragedy for the Jewish People
The horrible assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was a great shock to all Israelis. Who would have imagined that we would come to this? While many people both in Israel and abroad disagreed with his policies, no one would have ever dreamed that he would be cut down by an assassins bullet, and certainly no one in Israel ever encouraged or suggested such action, or would approve of it. This tragic event can be properly viewed as a turning point in Jewish history for a number of reasons, most notably the fact that a Jewish leader was killed by another Jew. This is indeed very unusual and has practically no precedent in Jewish history... precisely because such action is decidedly not Jewish in nature. Those who disagreed with the policies of Mr. Rabins government, and who continue to disagree with the policies of those who continue in his path, would certainly admit that they are against the direction in which he was leading the country... but it was their right to disagree, and their intention was to vote him out of office in the democratic manner.
It is Time to Speak the Truth...
The State of Israel, and the Jewish people as a whole, are now at an unmistakable crossroads in history. It has been said that Israel is no longer the same, and indeed will never be the same, following the assassination. In many ways this is true; however it is imperative to point out that the intrinsic nature of the state had already been changed before this tragic event. These changes are equally unspeakable... for they undermine the nature of the country, compromise the security and well-being of its citizens, pervert the significance of Jewish history and survival, mock the Divinely-ordained connection between the Jewish people and her land... and threaten not only the identity, but the physical continuance of the Jewish people. We are referring to the peace process, wherein sections of the Land of Israel have been given away to the worst sworn enemies of both the Jewish people - and peace. No one wants true peace as badly as the Jewish people, who have prayed for it daily for 2,000 years. But this cynical peace process is leading our nation to the brink, as every new concession by Israel brings more destruction and misery to the Jewish people. On a broader scale, the architects of the peace process are also actively seeking, and implementing, the nullification of the countrys Jewish nature and identity, in a misguided attempt to blend in with the rest of the world. Because they are disenfranchised from the values of their own faith, they do not understand the meaning and lessons of the Jewish experience. We are not afraid to say it, and let it be known: This government has a definite anti-Torah agenda. We cannot be silent when it comes to the degradation of G-ds honor, and the honor of His people, His Torah, and His Land.
A Modern Chanukah Story: A War Between Two Cultures
It was none other than the Minister of Communications, Shulamit Aloni, who stated We have no more use for the G-d of Israel. The nine muses are our gods. (In Greek mythology, the nine muses are patron goddesses of the arts and science). Thus, she has made her choice between clinging to the G-d of Israel and his heritage - and all the responsibility that this carries - and the gods of Greece. She represents those who opt for a license for decadence and hedonism, and a flight from Jewish destiny: to be a light unto the nations (see Steve Mathes excellent article). We have been witnessing a painful process of sifting through souls and the drawing of clear and distinct lines here in Israel: those who identify as Jews, and those who do not. And Moses stood in the gate of the camp and called out, Whoever is for G-d, come to me... (Ex. 32:26) G-d is forcing everyone in Israel to make a choice... and it is this government-sponsored posture, which seeks to uproot the Jewish religion from the Jewish people and separate the Jewish people from their identity with the Jewish land, which forms the heart and core of the so-called peace process. All those in Israel who are against the policies of this government have been branded as pariahs by the media and are labeled as anti-peace... the furthest thing from the truth. Half the population of this nation, who still remain faithful to their countrys security, their land, and their religious values, are systematically dehumanized by the press and by government statements and policies which are designed to make their lives unbearable... particularly those Jews who live in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, in fulfillment of the Biblical command (Deut. 12:29) When the L-rd your G-d shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go there to dispossess them, and you inherit them, and you dwell in their land... These Torah-true Jews, the settler population of 150,000 strong, have been to a great degree abandoned to raise their families and protect their children themselves... and all this, after they have been encouraged over the past 28 years by a succession of LABOR governments like this one to live there and settle the land. (Happily, we can report that the Jewish people are just as stiff-necked as ever... for the Jewish population in these areas is increasing as more and more families move to these areas to make a stand for the side of right... But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew - Ex. 1:12). This process of dehumanization is even more widespread after the assassination, however it began long before that event... and it is this, spawning feelings of desperation, fear and isolation, which is leading gradually to polarization and the dissolution of Israeli society. This anxious atmosphere of uncertainty is that which led to the awful tragedy. The incredible reality of this event is telling of just how severe the situation really is, and how hopeless some people have been made to feel.
To Fulfill Jewish Destiny Means to Bring About the Redemption
What is the ultimate purpose of existence? To sanctify the Name of G-d. What is the purpose of Jewish life in the Land of Israel? To live according to His word, and to sanctify to His great Name... by participating in His plan for Jewish destiny to unfold, which will in turn bring about the Redemption of Israel and all mankind. Those in Israel who fear G-d and live according to His word, have long been fearful that the result of the peace process will lead to nothing less than the complete disappearance of the Jewish character from the Land and people of Israel. It must be understood that the governments vision of the new Israel calls for a state of Jews, not a Jewish state. THEIR MEASURES WOULD ULTIMATELY UNDERMINE AND DESTROY THE SANCTITY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. This was unwittingly emphasized by the late Prime Minister Rabin himself, the day he signed the peace treaty with Jordan, when he stressed that this treaty marks the end of the Jewish people being A nation who dwells alone (Numbers 23: 9). Mr. Rabin may have had every good intention, but he did not understand the meaning of this Biblical verse. It was evident that he was under the impression that this verse was said in criticism of the Jews - but in reality it was said in praise! This is the strength of Israel and the secret to their survival - the fact that they have a Divine directive not to melt into the nations, but to dwell apart and stay distant - not to imitate their ways and culture, but ...you shall be for Me, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation... these are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel (Exodus 19:6). But in the dream of this dubious peace, the entire Middle East is transformed into a new region of economic development and prosperity. This is an idolatrous belief system whose only avowed deity is money. And in this Israel - in this vision - anti-Semitism will cease to exist, because the Jews will cease to be Jews. They will become Israelis who will be accepted with open arms by their neighbors. Thus far this government-sponsored secularization program, an escape from the responsibilities of true Jewish identity, has wreaked havoc on every level of Israeli society. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecc.). Its the story of Chanukah all over again. And history repeats itself in many ways which can be detected when one follows the teachings of the Torah... the very week in which the Biblical portion (Gen. 37) that tells the story of the sale of Joseph was read in synagogues, the IDF withdrew from the city of Shechem (Nablus) and left the tomb of Joseph behind... And Joseph was sold to the Arabs for twenty pieces of silver (ibid. v. 28) -again. How ironic that the Palestinians have their eyes on Hebron and Jerusalems Temple Mount as well... since these three places are the only ones that the Bible records were purchased by the Jewish people with a deed of sale. The Palestinians clearly wish to nullify the Jewish peoples ownership over this land... which is the secret of why they began their state with Jericho. Since Joshua led the Jews to the Land through Jericho and conquered it first, these enemies seek to nullify Joshuas original conquest and re-write history... that the Jewish presence here was all a historical error... indeed, that these Palestinians are the true Israelites. And it is not for naught that the rabbis teach there is a spiritual connection between Jericho and Jerusalem (for the Palestinians unabashedly claim Jerusalem as their capital and still call for armed struggle until they achieve this goal - Jerusalem, a city which they have no historical connection to whatsoever)... as illustrated by the Talmud which teaches that the smell of the incense offering in the Holy Temple could be sensed in Jericho (BT Yoma 39:B). And Joshua conquered Jericho first because it is the lock on the Land of Israel which must be opened first (R. Zadok HaCohen). Sadly, there are those from within who would seem to substantiate this view, and relinquish all Jewish rights to the Land of Israel... Mrs. Leah Rabin: Israelis dont need a large country. We need a state for the Jews, and the ownership of the land is not a holy value for us. (Davar Rishon Newspaper, 12/28/95)
The Land and people of Israel have experienced oppression and degradation in the past... but this time it is a Jewish government which is enacting these far-reaching changes and decrees... and this is what makes it so difficult to accept and understand. At the same time it makes it all the more imperative for us to gain a clear understanding of the meaning and significance of these events from the Torahs standpoint. The G-d of Israel has never, and will never, abandon His people. In the overflowing of wrath I hid My face from you for but a moment; but I will have mercy on you with everlasting faithful love, says your redeemer, the L-rd (Isaiah 54:8). How is it that this verse describes G-ds hiding His face as lasting but a moment? Our people has been in exile for nearly 2,000 years! But the answer is simple... when the time of our Redemption arrives, G-ds great and eternal love will be so evident, it will be so powerfully revealed, that we will understand with full clarity how everything which swept over us was all for the ultimate good - and the entire duration of the exile will appear to us as having lasting only a moment! As difficult as these days may be, fraught with such anxiety and despair, we can see the Divine hand of G-d behind it all, and we realize that these events are but accelerated steps in His orchestrated plan for the Redemption of Israel, all mankind, and the Restoration of His honor and glory.
The State of Israel has been a Divinely-orchestrated step along the road to redemption. But it is certainly not the final goal. Now, in our time, it is also changing... and the future appears uncertain. But while many are confused and depressed, we are confident that it will be for the better. The State of Israel, with all its limitations and imperfections, will yet fulfill its role and lead the world to the recognition that G-d and His Name are One (Zech. 14). Many are depressed and seek a way of understanding the significance of our generation. But we are truly living in special times, and it is a great privilege to be alive in this generation. We are on a difficult road - the birthpangs of the Messiah - which the rabbis of the Talmud predicted would be almost too difficult to bear. But G-d will never abandon His people, even when they - temporarily, out of spiritual exhaustion - abandon Him. I will be like dew to Israel, G-d told His prophet (Hosea 14:6). Why does G-d liken His relationship with Israel to dew, and not rain? Because rain comes and goes, and we must ask for it. But not dew - it is always present.
On a deep level of meaning, much of what is now transpiring in the Holy Land can be understood according to a principle which we have just recently begun to discuss in these pages: the two messianic redeemers, Mashiach ben Yosef (MBY) and Mashiach ben David (MBD). In the last issue of THE RESTORATION, we asked the questions: What is the relationship between these two messiahs, and how do they compliment each other? What are the differences between them, and the similarities they share?
In addition to the aspect of the war of Gog and Magog which we have already mentioned, there is a deeper aspect as well. MBD represents the power of G-dliness alone - the power of spirituality. Not by power, and not by might, but by My spirit, says the L-rd of Hosts (Zech 4:6). Thus we have learned that the Messiah will be the greatest spiritual leader the world has ever known, and will precipitate a global spiritual revolution unparalleled in the annals of human history.
But MBD is preceded by MBY. This is not a spiritual force but a physical one: Redemption through action, through human initiative... self-redemption, when man does as much as possible to redeem himself.
According to ancient tradition, both of these Messiahs are not only individuals, but also forces working throughout history; each is ultimately personified by a person who brings the process to fruition. Another distinction: MBD, although a progression of spiritual development, is eventually revealed to be one man who brings this process to its climax. But MBY is manifested as different personalities, and even as entire movements throughout history. His spirit, or more correctly the spirit of his mission, can be manifest a number of times in different ways. Thus the best example of the force of MBY is the formation of the State of Israel itself and the Israel Army in our own time - a clear attempt (on whatever level of consciousness) to speed up the redemption.
This explains why the State of Israel is referred to in prayers authorized by the Chief Rabbinate as the first blooming in the flower of our Redemption. The establishment of the State of Israel, following the darkest chapter of Jewish history - the years of the Second World War, when almost all of Eastern European Jewry was destroyed - is obviously a Divinely-decreed step along the route to the redemption of the Jewish people. And since it is an integral part of Israels redemption - it is of equal importance to the entire world, since Israel is chosen by G-d to manifest His will, as a microcosm of the entire world. Therefore she is held more responsible (Amos 3:2 - Only you have I known, from all the families of the earth...) - and therefore the worlds spiritual progress can be judged by Israels ups and downs
Over two hundred years ago, one of the most celebrated and learned rabbis (Rabbi Elijah of Vilna) wrote of this tradition and explained that the time of the influence of the MBY force in the world is limited. When its time expires, it will no longer make itself felt, but rather, it will implode of its own, having done all it can to prepare the way for MBD. From then on, attempts at MBY-styled self-redemption will be of little use, since the radiance and influence of MBD - spiritual hope and repentance - will begin to shine ever brighter, necessitating a sifting and a calling on the carpet (see introduction to The Ides of Chanukah in this issue) for each of us, and a global spiritual accounting which will lead to repentance and facilitate the appearance of the Redeemer and the ultimate redemption. This will be the time of MBD, of global spiritual awakening... and amazingly, Rabbi Elijah - writing over 200 years ago - wrote with Divine Inspiration that the time of MBY will end in 5750 - just six years ago. From now on, we must look to the power of spiritual hunger and ready ourselves to hear the call. Not everyone will want to hear it... another process of separation which the prophets describe.
All the questions remain. How will all this happen, and when? What will happen in Israel; will things get worse before they get better? Will we merit to achieve the level of individual and corporate repentance?
What role do each of us play?
As time progresses, each must seek out the answers for himself and ask aloud: Am I bringing the process of redemption closer, or pushing it further away?