Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Today’s world is a dangerous place. There are ominous winds blowing but we look the other way, preferring not to confront the frightening signs of the times.

A president of a major country has declared war on the Jewish people and announced to the world that he wants Israel wiped off the map. Anti-Semitism is nothing new and people have been trying to do away with us for some centuries now. This time it’s different because the man making those plans is also dangerously close to possessing an atomic bomb. No one has any doubts about the target of that bomb.

People sit around and speculate. They wonder if Israel can knock out Iranian nuclear facilities. To armchair generals the world is black and white. They compare the situation in Iran with the nuclear danger posed by Iraq before Menachem Begin ordered the 1981 attack on the Osirak nuclear site and destroyed the reactor Saddam Hussein was building. They don’t see why Israel can’t strike again—this time in Iran.

People tend to ignore all the variables. They don’t take into account Iran’s probable response; they ignore that Iran has ten thousand rockets, via Hezbollah, pointed at the citizens of Israel. They seem blind to the fact that Iran has in its employ tens of thousands of terrorists from the ranks of Hamas, al Aska brigades, and al Qaeda. They forget that if Iran holds onto its oil, a world wide crisis will ensue and the Jews will be held responsible for yet another disaster not of their making.

Armchair generals blissfully dismiss the international realities. They ignore the fact that Iranians are taking meticulous precautions to guard their facilities and that it will require a multi-pronged attack to damage those sites.

That’s not all. Begin was widely criticized at the time for bombing the Osirak nuclear facility; it is only in hindsight that it became evident to the world that he acted prudently. Apparently he was blessed with much Siyata D’Shamaya.

In fact, prior to the bombing he telephoned Maran Harav Shach and asked that the Ponovezh Yeshiva be mispallel for a mission Israel was about to undertake. Who knows if Israel’s current leaders posses the intelligence and determination of Mister Begin? Which of them has the stature to risk international condemnation?

It is doubtful if Ehud Olmert would ask anyone to daven for him and the campaign.

Begin was a man of responsibility who thought every action through, fully grasping the severe consequences of his fateful move. The people in charge now cannot be accused of being callous towards Israel’s security needs but they have no track record in making the kind of cosmic decisions now required of them.

What has Olmert done in the past to inspire anyone’s confidence that he is equal to the epic responsibilities that comes with Israel’s highest office?

In his autobiography Ariel Sharon wrote that history books about Israel’s wars designate him the “king of improvising.” He disputes that title, arguing that in every military campaign he led, he rehearsed and planned for every minute detail and every possible contingency.

While his moves last year in Gaza disenchanted masses of people who believed he had lost his grip on reality and recanted on every principle he advocated throughout his career, it is a mistake to equate him with the individuals who are now replacing him.

Which brings us to the next point: The hero worship around Arik Sharon in Israel was almost unprecedented, and borders on the irrational. Disowning his former party and ideals he set up a new party under whose banner he hoped to ride to victory in the upcoming elections. And all indications were that he would indeed do so.

The wonder of it is that the new party has no unifying ideology, no platform, no set code of operation and conduct. It is essentially a conglomeration of people from opposing ends of the spectrum angling for a piece of the pie and no one knows how long it will last.

But all this doesn’t seem to make a difference. Israelis can’t wait to vote it into power.

Today the beloved Arik lies in a hospital in a coma, and it is likely that he will not emerge from it the way many Israelis hope. But it matters not; the party is still polling 40 seats in the upcoming Knesset. An untested, unpopular and hitherto unrecognized individual heads it and Israelis are set to sweep him into power.

Last week Osama bin Laden, whom President Bush pledged four years ago to capture dead or alive, issued another one of his tapes warning of terror soon to be unleashed upon America.

Despite the ominous rumblings all about us, we continue on with our lives, busying ourselves with mundane concerns. That is the nature of man. We like to think that we are in charge of our own destiny and that nothing can interfere with our plans. We need to be reminded that there is a Borei Olam who controls us and directs all that transpires.

Paroh was one who couldn’t handle being told that he wasn’t in charge. He promulgated the belief that he was a divine being and was worshiped as such by his subjects. No matter what mofsim Moshe Rabbeinu performed, Paroh was able to explain them away. He said it was magic, that his own people could duplicate them. He finally recognized that there was no magic involved and that his own sorcerers were powerless to do what Moshe had done. But he still refused to budge.

Paroh was locked into his mindset and could not be shaken from it despite crystal clear evidence that disaster awaited him and his nation if he did not switch gears.

Makoh after makoh, Paroh remained entrenched in obstinacy. We regard him almost comically. What arrogance and blind stupidity! We fail to see ourselves in him. We don’t perceive that we tend at times to behave just as he did. Hakadsoh Boruch Hu sends us so many different messages to repent and mend our ways, but we dismiss His messages with endless rationalizations.

Some times we blame nature, sometimes the economy, and other times we fault the people around us.

It is not the president of Iran or the prime minister of Israel who determine our future. It is not Allan Greenspan or our boss who decides whether we will be rich or poor. They are merely messengers who act towards us according to our zechusim, as the posuk states “Lev Melachim v’sarim Byad Hashem.” If we show that we are deserving, than we will be blessed with peace and tranquility; if we show that we behave responsibly with our G-d given gifts, He in turn grants us more.

We have to learn from the makkos Hashem inflicts upon us and heed the lessons they bear. We will then merit the five leshonos of geulah. May it be speedily in our days.


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