Wednesday, July 26, 2006


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

If you have ever been to Tzefas, what no doubt stands out in your memory is its idyllic tranquility. You walk the same streets as did the Arizal and the Beis Yosef and so many other holy people over the centuries. A shiver goes down your spine as you think about it. You enter a shul in which the Arizal himself davened - how can you not be overcome with emotion? You see the cutest cheder children darting about as you walk through the old city. The beauty and serenity is overwhelming.

And now you hear the news reports that those cheder yingelach along with their families are locked in bomb shelters. The Arizal shul is empty, as are the Alshich shul and the Abuhove shul; the Tzorkover Beis Medrash has been bombed, the local yeshiva evacuated and the huge Breslov Beis Medrash, usually packed to the rafters, is sparsely populated. The Tzefas Yidden with their unique chein are gone - they have fled like refugees to parts south. The ancient cemetery with its kivrei tzaddikim, which exerts its pull on Jews from all over world, is desolate.

Not so the more modern cemetery nearby. Tragically, Jews have been there all too recently - to bury their loved ones killed in katyusha attacks.

Perhaps you have never been to Chaifa. It is Israel’s third largest city and hosts a large concentration of religious Jews along with chadorim, yeshivos, bais yaakovs, [even a Lev L’Achim office], and the full infrastructure of a regular community. Yet this past Shabbos, a minyan had to be scraped together in the main shul and when it was finally assembled, the mispallelim realized that there was no baal kriyah. They darted all about the neighborhood and could not find someone to lain the parshiyos of Matos and Masei. Most of the populace had fled.

As we enter the Nine Days, we find Klal Yisroel engulfed yet again in an eis tzorah. It is a chizuk in emunah to see once more the fulfillment of the words of the novi, “Kol rodfeha hisigu’ah bein hametzorim.”

Intelligent people all over grapple with questions. When will the current war end? Will the Western powers cower in fear and submit to the Islamic blood lust and thirst for domination? Will they force Israel to back down and snatch defeat from the claws of victory? They want to know if the West will capitulate to calls for an immediate ceasefire before Israel has the opportunity to drive the Iranian proxy far from their border. How long will it take till people realize that this war is not being waged over territory, as Israel’s previous wars, but over the radical Islamic ideology which seeks to subjugate the Western world?

Some are asking why the head of the United Nations gives succor to a Hezbollah terrorist group that the 22-member Arab League criticized for causing the current disaster. They all understand that the Islamic fascists have to be crushed or they will pose a threat to the wellbeing of the entire world, yet inexplicably, the worldwide media appears to support them.

People wonder how the political map will look when the war ends. Will it bring more power to Iran and Syria or will it weaken the axis of evil that so destabilizes and menaces the volatile Middle East?

It was obvious to this newspaper and to many people that Israel’s exit from Gaza would only bring its sworn enemies closer to Israel’s borders and make it easier for them to wreak further havoc. It was obvious that the withdrawal would embolden the terrorists and their many supporters by proving that terror works and that by keeping it up, they may be able to drive Israel into the sea. Why couldn’t Israel’s leaders see something so self-evident?

It was apparent when Ehud Barak ordered Israel out of Lebanon that Hezbollah and their ilk would take it as a huge victory for terror over the vaunted Israeli army. Since that period, Hezbollah has lined up at least 10,000 rockets on Israel’s northern border, yet no one stopped them, even though the UN resolution explicitly called for their disarmament. We don’t need to ask why. We know why. The world could not be bothered. And those in office in Israel were only interested in pawning the problem off onto the next government.

The world media complains that more Lebanese civilians are being killed than Israeli citizens. But since when is justice determined by which side loses more? Since when is a people under repeated attack and fighting for its life condemned for fighting back too hard? Since when is a democratic country that heeds international rules and respects the human rights of its own citizens as well as those of its enemy ordered to give up the fight because the enemy hides behind innocent men, women and children?

Only if you are discussing a conventional war are these questions relevant. But Am Yisroel, by its very nature, is non-conventional. Am Yisroel exists by different rules and operates on a different plane. Halacha hi beyoduah Eisav sonei l’Yaakov; it is a law built into the universe that Eisav and Yishmoel hate Yaakov. It has nothing to do with logic.

There is no other way to satisfactorily explain why the nations of the world hate us so; no way to justify the double standard and hypocrisy that characterize their policies toward Israel.

The truth is that when we see Chazal’s dictum borne out not only today but throughout every epoch in history, it ought to strengthen our belief in the words of the Torah and Chazal.

Likewise, when we note that it was on Shiva Assar B’Tammuz that the katyushas began raining down on northern Israel, was that not an explicit reminder from Above that nothing happens randomly - that Hashem is in charge? When we see the fulfillment of the prophecies and the words of Chazal forecasting the pain that will engulf Am Yisroel in the Three Week period of bein hametzorim, we should also note the “escape route” they prescribed.

The Chofetz Chaim in his sefer Ahavas Chesed, chelek beis, perek yud daled, writes “how good it would be if this idea [of gemillas chesed] would spread among our nation of holy people. If everyone would strengthen themselves to perform this mitzvah, the world would become full of chesed. All the hardships and problems besieging us would consequently disappear from this world.”

While the words of the Chofetz Chaim need no validation, especially from me, perhaps we can expound upon them and explain how they are most relevant to the situation we find ourselves in today.

Rav Chaim Vital, the disciple of the Arizal, writes [Sefer Eitz Hadaas Tov, Tehillim 124] that there will be five exiles for the Jewish people. The fifth will be the most difficult and will be called Golus Yishmoel. During this exile, they will torment the Jewish people with terrible afflictions, unprecedented in the previous exiles.

The son of Avrohom Avinu was given the name Yishmoel, which is an amalgamation of the two Hebrew words, yishma Keil, “G-d will hear.” In that fearful period, the Jews will be unable to escape his awful clutches and will have no recourse but to cry out to Hashem and have faith that He will save us.

Rav Chaim Vital quotes the Pirkei D’Reb Eliezer who writes that b’acharis hayomim, during the “end of days,” the Jews will cry out to Hashem from the affliction brought on by the offspring of Yishmoel, and He will answer them.

Where does Yishmoel get his power from? How can it be that this offspring of Avrohom Avinu has the ability to so gravely harm the Jewish people?

Perhaps it derives from what seforim say was Yishmoel’s co-opting of Avrohom’s midah of chesed. Yishmael took the klipah, so to speak, of chesed. In other words, Yishmoel has the illegitimate chesed, which empowers his offspring.

It follows, therefore, that the way to battle him is by strengthening our own midas hachesed. The more we fill the world with legitimate chesed, the more we strengthen the power of Am Yisroel - derived from Avrohom Avinu - which in turn depletes the chesed and strength of Yishmoel.

Thus we gain deeper insight into the advice of Chazal, “Harotzeh l’hinotzeil m’chevlei Moshiach, yaasok b’Torah u’gemillus chassodim.” The “escape route” saving us from the birth pangs of Moshiach is the study of Torah and performing acts of chesed.

The last golus will be Golus Yishmoel, whose power will unfold b’acharis hayomim. By performing chesed, we will weaken the power of Yishmoel to fight us, and thus be spared from the terrible suffering destined for that time.

Seforim teach that Moshiach Ben Dovid represents and is empowered by midas hachesed. It may very well be that the chesed we are urged to perform in these days helps prepare the world for the revelation of Moshiach Ben Dovid.

May it come to pass speedily in our days that the period of din - the pain and tragedy of Tammuz and Av - will be overturned by the many acts of gemillas chassodim which we will all undertake. May these days be marked by true chesed, rescue and redemption with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.


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