Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bad News Parade

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

A parade of bad news has been emanating from the Mideast over the past week, and no one knows what to do about it.

Hamas has taken over Gaza, yet the peace charade continues. The bankruptcy of the Kadima party’s platform has been exposed for all to see. Yet, this week, Olmert still pressed on with a discredited “peace” agenda, as he met with President Bush and discussed how to cede the West Bank to Abbas and his people.

How difficult it is for people to admit when they are wrong.

Five years ago, President Bush laid out his plan for peace in Israel. The first US president to call for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, he called on “the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty,” he said. Of course, he added that the “Palestinian state will never be created by terror - it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempts to preserve the status quo.”

Such lofty visions. Where did they lead?

Ariel Sharon spit in the face of everything his party stood for and pulled Israel out of Gaza, saying that it would bring the hoped-for peace with the Palestinian people. You didn’t need a crystal ball to predict what would really happen, but the people of Israel blindly supported Sharon in his venture. He formed a new party, Kadima, surrounding himself with people of Likud and Labor who supported his plan.

Sharon himself was plucked from the scene immediately following this disastrous move. His legacy was carried forward, however, by the inexperienced Ehud Olmert, a man blinded by his own ambitions and hubris.

Just as Ehud Barak’s unilateral retreat from Lebanon provided radical Arabs a base from which to attack Israel, so too, Sharon’s and Olmert’s withdrawal presented terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction a new platform from which to launch a jihad against Israel.

It’s not as if it was impossible to see this coming. Abbas is himself a farcical character. He is a useful idiot, used to foment the lie that there is a Palestinian peace partner. A lackey of Arafat, he did nothing to move his people towards peace and moderation. PA textbooks are still full of incitement to hatred. His government was corrupt and inept. All his negotiations with Israel were a charade.

As per the instruction of Bush and Secretary of State Rice, democratic elections were held in “Palestine” and Hamas was permitted to run, though it had not forsworn violence and refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Israel didn’t think Hamas would win anyway - another intelligence failure - and Rice posited that even if they did win, governing would force them to act responsibly and come around to the American position.

Needless to say, they were all wrong.

Needless to say, they won’t admit it.

Keeping The Farce Going

If they were honest leaders, with the best interests of their people at heart, Olmert, Bush and Rice would stand up and proclaim that their plan has been a failure, instead of trying to prop up what is so obviously a farce.

Olmert, who has the support of about 3% of Israelis, give or take a few percent, would proclaim the need to hold new elections, typical of how things work in that country. He would say, “Listen guys, I was swept into power to unilaterally disengage from the Arabs, but it isn’t working; it’s time to try something else,” and see what ideas people come up with.

The Americans, along with the freedom-loving countries of the West, would call on Israel to enter Gaza and wipe out Hamas before they establish another Iranian-Syrian terror beachhead from which to launch attacks on Israel and the West.

Bush would give one of his axis-of-evil speeches and add Gaza to his list of places that have to be purged of terrorism. As he said about Iran, Iraq and North Korea, “Either you’re with us, or against us, and they are against us.”

Rice would get up and say that her roadmap is full of potholes and wrong turns and it is time to redraw the map to reflect the facts on the ground.

What are the odds that any of this will happen?

Last summer, as it appeared that Israel was winning in Lebanon in its war against Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, Condoleezza Rice proclaimed that the booms were “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.” How misguided she was. Since then, Israel was vanquished from Lebanon, Iran continues to progress towards becoming a nuclear power, Syria is getting stronger, and Hamas has thousands of rockets, guns and men poised on Israel’s southwestern border.

The Real Bully On The Block

The President’s war in Iraq is surging towards defeat, because he hasn’t taken on Iran and Syria, and for all his tough talk, he knows it.

His state undersecretary, Nicolas Burns, said last week that Iran is arming the insurgents who are killing so many American soldiers in Iraq: the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. No surprise there; everyone knows that to be true. What’s surprising, what is simply astounding, is that no one is doing anything about it.

Bush’s justification for going to war against Saddam was that the Iraqi ruler provided a base for terrorists to export terrorism around the world and thus had to be taken out. But why doesn’t this rational, clear-eyed assessment apply to Iran and Syria? Instead of addressing the crisis brewing there, the administration buries its head in the sand and attempts to engage in diplomacy. So America has joined with Europe in talking to Ahmadinejad, as he continues to pile up nuclear centrifuges.

We’ve got to admit that the president is preoccupied these days with other pressing matters. He is promoting a bill which is opposed by 85% of the members of his party and 69% of Americans.

So now, instead of facing the reality of what ceding land to Arabs leads to, Bush and the European Union are going to replenish Abbas’ weapons [which ended up in Hamas hands], flood him with money and pressure Israel to make more concessions to Abbas so that he can show his people that it pays to be friends with the Americans. He will then enter into a peace deal with Israel.

No one asks the obvious question of why Israel should make peace with a nation half of whose people are sworn to its destruction and who reject any and all peace deals signed by so-called leaders who don’t represent them?

So where does all of this lead?

As we enter into the month of Tammuz and the period of the year destined for bad things to occur, we have to take a deeper look into what is going on around us.

The world that defeated first fascism then communism is now threatened by Islamic totalitarianism. This has a special message for us as Jews.

To the extent that we recognize that all that transpires is by Divine decree and plan, Hashem watches over and protects us. The sefer Chovos Halevavos writes at the beginning of Shaar Habitachon that Hashem removes his protection from one who puts his faith in others and only protects those who place their faith in Him.

A Time To Cry Out

In Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh, he writes that one who puts his faith in Hashem is rewarded. Hashem “opens his gates of understanding, reveals to him secrets of His chochmah, places an eye on him to guide him and will not abandon him only to his own powers and abilities.”

The Rambam [Hilchos Taanis] writes that it is a mitzvas asei to cry out and blow shofros for every tzorah which befalls the Jewish community. This is one of the paths to teshuva. When a tragedy befalls the community, every one must acknowledge that it is due to their sins. But if instead of crying out, they ascribe the threat facing the community to “the way the world works,” such an attitude is an outgrowth of the midah of achzorius and ends up deepening and multiplying the tragedy.

The entire purpose of tragedy is to inspire us to do teshuva.

The Ramban at the end of parshas Bo writes that the purpose of creation was for man to acknowledge that Hashem created the world and to serve Him wholeheartedly. This is also the purpose of raising our voice in prayer and the purpose of Batei Kenisiyos and the reason for the zechus of tefilah b’tzibur; to enable people to publicly gather and acknowledge their Creator.

We must realize, says the Ramban, that the foundation of the Torah is that everything that happens in this world is a miracle, brought about by Hashem. Nothing happens at random. Nothing can be attributed to the forces of nature or “the way the world works.”

Someone who doesn’t believe that has no share in Toras Moshe, the Ramban affirms. People who observe the mitzvos will succeed, and those who don’t will be punished with destruction.

He also teaches that the hidden miracles that occur daily are more evident when you examine the actions that affect the entire community. As the posuk says (Devorim, 29:23-24), “And the nations of the world will say, why did Hashem do this to the Holy Land? And they will answer, because the Jews let go of the covenant that was made with Hashem, the G-d of their forefathers.”

Says the Ramban, this is foretelling that the destruction of Eretz Yisroel will be understood by the nations as a punishment for the Jews forsaking the Torah.

Unprecedented Grief

Rav Chaim Vital in his peirush on sefer Tehillim writes that the final golus will be golus Yishmael. The exile that will take place under the Yishmaelim will be worse than any previous golus. The Yishmaelim will go from being tent-dwelling desert nomads to ruling over the entire world and Israel, and they will cause us unprecedented grief. They will seek to wipe us off the face of the earth, and without Divine intervention, they would be able to implement their murderous designs.

At that time, we will cry out to Hashem and he will hear our cries and prayers. Hence the name Yishmael, composed of the two words, Yishma and Keil - Hashem will hear, according to the Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer (32).

What is happening now with the offspring of Yishmael is pre-ordained. In order for us to prevail over Yishmael, we must raise our voices in prayer. His name does not hint that if we are strong and battle him with chivalry, we will defeat him. His name does not hint that if we engage him in diplomacy, we will outwit him. His name proclaims that the only way to defeat him is through tefillah.

We can sit and pontificate all day about what Bush did wrong and how Olmert missed the boat, and it won’t make any difference. Everything that happens is from Hashem, and especially when dealing with Eretz Yisroel, about which the posuk (Devorim 11:12) states, “Eretz asher Hashem Elokecha doreish osah tomid einei Hashem Elokecha boh m’reishis hashanah v’ad acharis shanah.”

The Gemorah in Avodah Zorah (2b) states that at the end of time, when Moshiach comes, the nations of the world will stand up and protest the punishment they are about to receive for their treatment of the Jews. They will all proclaim that everything they did was only to benefit the Jews and their service of G-d and Torah.

Persia’s Pivotal Role

The Gemorah says that Poras - Persia - will cry out that everything they did was to help the Jews. We built many bridges, conquered many towns and waged war, they will say, to enable the Jews to learn Torah.

We understand the grounds for claiming they built bridges etc. to enable the study of Torah, but how does waging war help the Jews learn Torah? Perhaps it can be understood to mean that they waged war in order to scare the Jews into doing teshuva and returning to Torah study.

Poras, Persia, is the present day state of Iran. When the ruler of that country rises up and repeatedly proclaims publicly to the entire world that he intends to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, who in their right mind would doubt that he means to do just that? When he continues his maniacally feverish race to arm himself with nuclear weapons to carry out his bloody intentions, should we sit by and wait to be attacked?

We must raise our voices in passionate prayer that Hashem spare us from his evil intents.

We should use every opportunity to study more Torah and create more zechuyos for our people.

When we read what is transpiring in Eretz Yisroel, we must think of the pesukim that describe what will happen if the people of the land engage in immoral Sodomite and Canaanite behavior as the posuk clearly states [Vayikro: 20, 22], “Velo suki es’chem ha’aretz…”

Engaging in deviant activity and flaunting it in public can, G-d-forbid, trigger suffering and pain for our people.

Last year, those who flaunted their wickedness were also planning a march in Yerushalayim, but Hezbollah’s bombs, which began raining down on Israel mere days before Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, changed that.

Let us rededicate ourselves to Torah, arm ourselves with the weapons of the spirit bequeathed to us by of B’nei Avrohom, Yitzchok v’Yaakov, and pray that Tammuz this year will be turned into a month of celebration, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu. Amein


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