Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bringing the Joy Back to Tammuz

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Ask any Western diplomat what he considers to be the greatest threat to peace and democracy in the world. Most would undoubtedly agree that it is militant Islam, which is fast approaching nuclear capability. In other words, the current government of Iran is the greatest threat to world democracy.

Ruled by hardline clerics since 1979, Iran is headed by a supreme ayatollah and ostensibly governed by elected officials. The person in command these days is a crafty lunatic bent on procuring nuclear weapons with which to terrorize the West. He has repeatedly threatened to bomb Israel to utter destruction. Experts take his threats very seriously.

The specter of a nuclear Iran hangs over the Mideast and Eretz Yisroel, overshadowing all other dangers, including the conflict with the Palestinians. In fact, previous Israeli governments going back to 1990 agreed to desperate concessions with the Palestinians, hoping that by resolving the Palestinian problem, Israel would be in a better position to deal with Iran.

Iran menaces not only Israel, but the entire Middle East. Exporting its brand of terror to other countries is one of Teheran’s key objectives. Through its many proxies, including Hezbollah and Hamas, it seeks to impose radical Islam on all countries in the region.

Given this grave danger and Iran’s pivotal role in the “Axis of Evil,” one would expect world leaders to make it their foremost priority to overthrow the current regime. However, this is far from the case. An endless round of ineffective negotiations, embargos and tough-talking but toothless pronouncements by successive world leaders have failed to halt Iran’s march toward nuclear power.

Rumors abound about Israel preparing to bomb Iran in order to halt its race towards nuclear capability, but for now this appears to be little more than talk.

America, too, remains undecided, with opposing political camps hotly divided on how to deal with the threat. The new president naively believes that through negotiation he can convince the radical mullahs to give up their quest for nuclear weaponry, the key to military ascendancy in the region.

The world’s inaction and fear has clearly emboldened Teheran.

To many of us, the true nature of Iran’s “mullahtocracy” has been long obvious. The clerics posture as divine advocates of peace and love, but their real ambition is clear: controlling the reins of power. The current election chaos in Iran has shattered their pretensions. The unleashing of a murderous militia on Iranians who protested a stolen vote has unmasked the true nature and agenda of Iran’s leadership.

This exposure was compounded last Friday, when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the “Supreme Leader” of Iran, warned of “bloodshed and chaos” to follow if the protesters don’t back down and recognize Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the legitimate winner of the election. Remarkably, the Supreme Leader’s previously unquestioned leadership was suddenly challenged. Seeing his true colors, the people defied him.

No longer will he be viewed by the Iranian people as an omnipotent moral leader, driven by his concern and love for them. His own actions have exposed him as a power-hungry hypocrite, far more interested in maintaining his grip on power than in carrying out his obligations to Allah and the Iranian people.

In the face of these public revelations, the response of the leaders of the free world has been bitterly disappointing. While millions of rank-and-file citizens of the West are cheering on the throngs of Iranians who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause of freedom, the leaders of the “free world” are fumbling about, uncertain how to respond to this unexpected Divine windfall.

Contemplate the amazing twist of events. While world leaders wring their hands over how to deter Ahmadinejad from his nuclear pursuits, the madman of Teheran comes closer and closer to reaching his goal. Seemingly out of nowhere, the people of Iran suddenly rise up to throw off the shackles of Islamic tyranny. Night after night and day after day, hundreds of thousands confront religious policemen who carry guns and steel batons. And not one Western leader has the courage to stand alongside them and proclaim what everyone knows to be true! Not one Western leader spoke forcefully in favor of the revolution to protest the election fraud and human rights abuses on the streets of Iran, perpetrated in view of the entire world. As dozens are killed and thousands are beaten and hauled off to jail, world leaders have contented themselves with mouthing feeble platitudes.

Not one has the moral courage and leadership to identify a murderer and a madman by his true name.

The same champions of morality who condemn Israel for not granting full rights to people who seek their destruction, the very same officials who strut about on the world stage condemning Israel’s leaders for enacting measures to protect the lives of their citizens, fall silent in the face of wanton brutality in Iran. They portray the hypocrisy of their positions by their double standard when it comes to Jews. They proclaim the presence of a few trailers as impediments to world peace. But when presented with an opportunity to actually spread democracy, or to advocate for the forces of freedom, they tiptoe around the truth, mumbling diplomatic nonsense.

As the Ayatollah maintains control by unleashing Iranian Revolutionary Guard units who shoot into the crowds, the international community remains silent. Meanwhile, the ongoing protests delay the talks that President Barack Obama has been waiting for since he began campaigning for the presidency. With each passing day, Teheran marches closer to its goal, while the window of opportunity for halting the fateful process is quickly closing.

Former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mir Hussein Mousavi are trying to prevent an apocalyptic ending to the Iranian republic, but no one in the West is reaching out to support them. Dissidents post videotapes of the mullah’s goons killing innocent young people, but President Obama fails to condemn the savagery, refusing to take sides. Shouldn’t the most powerful leader of the free world be boosting the morale of the freedom fighters? What is the rationale behind Obama’s silence?

Some say that he fears meddling in what he refers to as an internal Iranian problem, because he doesn’t want to burn his bridges with Ahmadinejad. They say that Obama has deluded himself into believing that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, while resisting the pressure of the masses who oppose them, will not be able to resist the American president’s charisma and superior statesmanship. Why waste oratorical talent on behalf of the struggling revolutionaries, when he can earn world approval for winning over the madman who threatens the free world?

Obama may well prefer to keep Ahmadinejad in power, because only then can Obama establish himself as a world hero by neutralizing a world menace, thus saving civilization.

This kind of egotistic rationalization is unfortunately not limited to Obama. It exists as well in our own insular world. And it is the reason that evil continues to fester.

Not to compare people in our world with an evil maniac like Ahmadinejad, but there are times when we know we should take action but do not, because we make cheshbonos. When confronted with evil, and corrupt and depraved behavior, we are afraid to stand up and denounce it. We examine the issue from all sides, weighing the pros and cons of clear-cut opposition. We equivocate and try to figure out what’s in it for us personally, instead of considering the greater good.

When people prey on the weak, and we are hesitant to confront and expose them because we don’t want to appear as baalei machlokes, we are enabling evil to flourish. When we accept money and honor from people we know to be corrupt, we are encouraging these people to grow in power and influence. When we permit people we don’t respect to speak in our name and represent us simply because we don’t want to rock the boat, we are strengthening the hand of individuals who are incompetent to lead. When we permit others to publicly humiliate good people who have attempted to improve the public welfare, we are contributing to the moral pollution of our world.

Abused people cannot fight alone. Victims cannot be expected to have the moral stamina to fight off those who harmed them. By doing nothing to hold the guilty to account, we are as guilty as the perpetrators. The only way evil can flourish is if people of good will remain silent, either out of fear or self-interest.

We have to dedicate ourselves fully to the truth, while maintaining determination to courageously battle on its behalf. We must remain loyal to the good people among us when they come under attack. It is only with selfless and focused perseverance, coupled with courage, that we can survive as bnei Torah in the image of our forefathers. They had the fortitude to withstand the many obstacles thrown their way, maintaining their indomitable spirit and faith in times of darkness. In a world that has lost its moral compass, we must pray for the wisdom and strength to cling to our ideals and beliefs.

This week, we ushered in the month of Tammuz, one of the saddest months in the Jewish calendar. If we want to infuse joy into this month, we have to strengthen our abhorrence of sheker. It isn’t enough to posture. Standing on the sidelines trying to gauge winners and losers won’t accomplish anything. We don’t have the luxury of confining our concern to our own families. In the troubling times in which we live, it is the few courageous ones who have the ability to save the rest of us. We all have that strength within us waiting to be tapped. Let us rise to the challenge to be among those select few who can prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu bekarov.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Tent of Torah

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Ever since the Reagan years, the American people have been blessed primarily with presidents who befriended Israel. Although there were times when not everything went according to the way friends of Israel hoped, an open dialogue prevailed between the two countries, marked by a mutual understanding of the historic relationship between them. This was the status quo for many years.

Diplomatic jargon falsely equating Palestinian difficulties caused by Israeli security clampdowns with the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust had yet to become part of political parlance.

The election of Barack Obama changed all this. His recent Cairo address to the Muslim world put his policy shift on clear display. His speech was notable in its obvious efforts to curry favor with Muslims and its significant omissions that offer a roadmap into his true mindset about the Jewish people and Eretz Yisroel.

In addition to highlighting his ethnic brotherhood with Muslims by proudly referring to his middle name, Hussein, Obama engaged in an unprecedented twisting of historical facts, leading to erroneous and dangerous conclusions.

Having chosen to deliver this address in Egypt, Obama blithely ignored that his host state is run by a dictator, much as is every other Muslim state, with little or no tolerance of dissent. He decried Israel’s “humiliation” of Palestinians, ignoring the fact that the Palestinian reign of terror, which has cost the lives of thousands of innocent civilians, has made tough security measures a life-and-death necessity.

The president actually said that Israel should be negotiating with Hamas, the terror group dedicated to destroying the Jewish state. The fact that Hamas won control of Gaza following Israel’s cowardly flight from the region has apparently legitimized this terror group in the president’s eyes.

Not wanting to offend Muslim sensibilities, Obama carefully avoided all mention of the word “terror” or “terrorism.” Instead of denouncing radical Islam for promoting global terrorism, Obama spoke only about Islam’s “proud tradition of tolerance.” Tolerance? What tolerance for religious differences of any kind exists in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia or any of the other Islamic states?

In the course of his speech, Obama also opined that Iran is entitled to nuclear power!

Notwithstanding the president’s weak-kneed address, he later rushed to attribute partial credit for an electoral revolution against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a near political defeat of Ahmadinejad in Iran, to his speech filled with flattery and appeasement!

Offering his bona fides as a student of history, Obama then proceeded to falsify history. He claimed that modern civilization owes a great debt to Islam because it paved the way for the renaissance in Europe, by demonstrating the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

Exactly as intended, this fallacious rendition of history jacked up the president’s approval ratings with his hosts and the worldwide Muslim community.

His speech made no mention of Israel’s historical claim to its land. It implied that the Jewish people’s right to Eretz Yisroel is based purely on Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, which justified their request for a homeland. Pulling out the equivalency argument, he went on to extol the Palestinians for surviving their own [so-called] victimhood at the hands of the Israelis, suggesting that they, too, have thereby earned their right to an independent state.

How frustrating to hear someone in a position of great leadership and responsibility deliberately fudge the truth and prattle nonsense!

Israel, we all know, has been victimized by Arab terror and war mongering for decades. It has done all in its power to foster a peaceful existence, only to be spurned. If only the Arabs would have Gaza, they would accept Israel, the argument went. If only the Arabs had the West Bank, they would then accept Israel in their midst, the pundits now insist.

What of the fact that the Arabs did have the West Bank when, in 1967, they tried to wipe Israel off the map, provoking the war that led to Israel’s liberation of those territories? What of the fact that there really is no such a thing as an Arab indigenous population of that territory? And let’s not forget that there are dozens of expansive Islamic countries with the ability to absorb the Palestinian refugees, but who deliberately choose not to, in order to continuously stoke the flames of hatred and violence.

Obama, an ardent spokesman of the liberal left, is stuck, along with his advisors, in a moral equivalency trap. There is nothing that will convince people blinded by a false ideology of the truth.

Binyomin Netanyahu can call for immediate peace talks and volunteer to travel anywhere to undertake that mission. Yet, the world will refer to him as the hardline hawk who seeks war and not peace, confrontation and not a solution. The countries of the world slam him for having the temerity to insist that the Arabs and Palestinians recognize the existence of Israel, reinforcing the pattern of chopping down every olive branch Israel has ever extended to its foes.

Bibi can lay out the truth of the history of the West Bank and the peace process - the Arab regimes continuously seeking to drive Israel into the sea and their refusal to recognize the Jewish people’s right to an independent country in their historical homeland. He can call upon the Palestinians to forsake war and terror and finally recognize Israel’s right to live in peace on the land of Eretz Yisroel. Everything else, he stated, would then fall into place.

None of this will alter the mindset of Israel’s enemies, or of the Palestinians’ apologists. Obama, Clinton, Jimmy Carter and all the pro-Arab voices will continue to single out Netanyahu as the primary impediment to peace in the Middle East.

The willful blindness to history and to current realities in that region is also reflected in the administration’s tendency to hide from important truths affecting the economic situation here in the United States.

Instead of freeing up capital for people to invest and spend, the president sees fit to raise taxes and engage in other activities that reduce the amount of money available for private citizens to spend to get the economy going again.

Instead of strengthening the capitalist underpinnings which have made this country great, they are engaging in socialist prescriptions which have been discredited wherever they have been previously tried.

Part of their plan is to revamp the vaunted American health care system to resemble that of countries that practice nationalized health care to disastrous consequences. They refuse to recognize the simple fact that their trillion dollar boondoggle will not only drain more money from the pockets of hardworking Americans, but it will also rob them of the quality healthcare they now enjoy.

Many of their other initiatives are doomed to failure even as they throw the country into unprecedented deficits and looming inflation. Yet they persist, ignoring the facts and spewing propaganda in the face of obvious truths.

Many of us stand by and watch these developments, wondering what, if anything, we can do to restore traditional American foreign and national policies.

Rather than despair over the negative way things seem to be going, let us remind ourselves that our job is to leave the running of world affairs to the Creator, and to focus on our purpose in this world: to use all our resources to grow in Torah and to spread the light of Torah.

I had the pleasure of attending a parlor meeting Sunday night in a tent behind the home of Mr. and Mrs. Rocky Stefansky in Lakewood. The evening was a fundraiser on behalf of the Cherry Hill Community Kollel. The setting was beautiful, the audience a mix of concerned Lakewood people and fifty individuals from the Cherry Hill community.

Rabbi Yissocher Frand began the program with a grand slam performance. He touched all the bases and drove home the point of how important it is for a town to have a center from where Torah and kedushah emanate and which invigorates the local residents.

Scanning the audience, one could see so many nice, fine Jews and appreciate that thanks to the dedication of Lakewood kollel yungeleit, they had been drawn to the Shechinah

The hartizgeh Yehuda Green began to sing, tugging at heartstrings. Before you knew it, black-hatted Lake-wooders were dancing in the aisles, arm in arm with kipah serugah members of the Cherry Hill Kollel community. What a stirring testimony to the power of Torah in uniting Jews of different backgrounds! The scene demonstrated the love and reverence that flow between Jews of all stripes when they are united under the banner of Torah.

A distinguished and successful-looking individual addressed the gathering, telling the audience that prior to meeting the kollel people, he considered himself a good Jew, though he had never heard of Hashem. Thanks to the kollel, he began learning Torah and putting on tefillin, and eventually became observant. He said that now the study of Torah is the greatest thrill in his life. Such is the draw of Torah! Such is the power of kollel families to affect a town.

In his remarks, Rabbi Frand spoke about momentous opportunities to be marbeh kevod Shomayim that often knock at one’s door. He stressed the obligation to seize the moment and turn it into something worthwhile and eternal. So many searching Jews await an opportunity to discover Hashem and His Torah. It seems obvious that this is our calling at this unique juncture in history.

When everything is crumbling all around us, when people are ready to give up hope for the future, when madmen threaten the entire world with nuclear weapons and no solution is seen on the horizon, our only recourse is to strengthen the knowledge of Hashem in our immediate environs, as well as throughout the world.

When people grope in confusion for a moral and spiritual anchor, it is time to create more oases of Torah and kedushah to chase away the forces of darkness. This will bring us closer to the day the neviim prophesized about when “umala kol ha’aretz deah es Hashem,” the world will recognize the greatness of Hashem, laying the groundwork for the arrival of Moshiach. As long as we remain in golus, the powers of evil will fester, with darkness constantly battling to extinguish the light.

When policy changes in the administration frighten us, when the threats of an Iranian president set off alarms, when the economic downturn gives us sleepless nights, we have to remind ourselves that our only salvation is to strengthen the forces of Torah and seek to bring more people into its tent.

We say Kinos on Tisha B’Av and cry out, “Ein lanu shiyur rak haTorah hazos - We have nothing left but Torah.” We have lost so much and so many, but we still have the Torah. We must do whatever we can to help strengthen Torah during these difficult times.

The more Torah is studied, the more of our fellow Jews will be brought into the Torah’s tent, and the closer we will be to the day that truth will finally triumph over falsehood with the final redemption, may it happen speedily in our day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Getting Dirty

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Look around you at the people who have used their lives to make an enduring difference. Examine some of the people who have really made the world a better place and see what is different about them. Taking a careful look, you will often discover an ordinary person, with one difference: he stuck his neck out and worked to right wrongs. He saw a vacuum and sought to fill it.

With dogged determination and persistence, he fought off the urge to pull back and give up. He ignored the nagging voices that said it couldn’t be done and dug deep into the recesses of his soul to find the strength and succor to accomplish his mission.

People like this refuse to be discouraged by those who advise them that their goals are impossible to attain.

We often hear such an individual being praised for “accomplishing the impossible,” almost as if he pulled off something supernatural, against the natural order. The truth is that the person may have indeed gone far beyond the norm in dedication, sacrifice and commitment.

But even that is not what brought him success. He tasted success only because the Divine Hand enabled him to do so, or else it truly would have been impossible to achieve what he did.

Anyone who walks this earth with his eyes open is aware of the Yad Hashem that touches us every moment of our lives. We see siyata diShmaya constantly. We work hard to accomplish our goal and then Hashem takes over.

Every person was created to carry out a mission in life. Those who succeed are the ones who don’t let anything deter them for long. With faith in the One Above, they ignore the difficulties that would throw off lesser men. They continue their hishtadlus with the knowledge that Hashem will assist them and take over for them at the proper time.

This week’s parsha of Beha’aloscha offers a paradigm of how man’s wholehearted efforts to be mekadeish sheim Shomayim, elicit Divine favor. The parsha discusses the mitzvah of lighting the menorah. The first Rashi on the parsha explains why this mitzvah follows the recitation of the korbanos that the nesiim of the shevatim brought to inaugurate the Mishkan in Parshas Naso.

Aharon Hakohein was upset that he had no part in the chanukas haMishkan. Hakadosh Brouch Hu told him, “Shel’cha gedolah mishelahem - Your share is greater than that of the nesi’im, she’atah madlik umeitiv es haneiros - because you set up and light the wicks of the menorah.”

The second Rashi explains that the word beha’aloscha indicates that the kohein kindles the wick until the fire rises by itself - “ad shetehei shalheves olah mei’eileha.”

The kohein is commanded to clean out the vessel and light the menorah, but he is told that in the end, it will light by itself. It is his duty to be meitiv, which also can be translated to mean doing good with others. Indeed, Aharon Hakohein was an oheiv shalom verodeif shalom. A kohein who is meitiv, a kohen who is prepared to reach in and do the dirty work, will merit that G-d will help him and the light will be lit by itself, if he just carries out the initial steps of lighting it.

The kohein is told that if he does the initial hishtadlus; gets his hands dirty and has the requisite belief and commitment to actualize his shlichus, he is promised that the task will be completed by Hashem.

Shel’cha gedolah mishel-ahem. Thus, the act of kindling the menorah is greater than the korbanos that the nesi’im brought for the chanukas haMishkan. The avodas hahakrovah was not even done by them.

Such a donation to the Mishkan does not have the same everlasting impact as the hadlokah and hatovah performed by the kohein himself, as he was waiting for the shalheves to be oleh mei’eileha.

In last week’s parsha (7:9), we learned that the Bnei Kehos weren’t given wagons to assist them in carrying the keilim of the Mishkan throughout the Midbar as were the Bnei Gershon and Bnei Merori. The posuk states regarding the Bnei Kehos, “Avodas hakodesh aleihem bakoseif yiso’uh.” Since they were given the job of carrying the aron, mizbei’ach, shulchan and menorah, they had to carry them on their shoulders, as the sanctity of these objects did not permit them to be placed in wagons for transport.

Chazal say that “aron nosei es nosav,” the aron carried those who carried it. Thus, even though the Bnei Kehos place the aron on their shoulders to transport it, carrying it did not require more than the initial effort of lifting. Following that initial exertion, they were in fact assisted by Hashem; the heavy keilim they shouldered actually carried them.

Those who endeavor to accomplish and spread holiness in this world and are prepared to do the heavy lifting are granted Heavenly assistance to complete the task.

The fact is that although our efforts contribute very little to the actual results, there is a factor we do control. Our mesiras nefesh plays a major role in evoking siyata diShmaya.

The only limits to what we can accomplish are those which we set by ourselves. If we let the forces of negativity and cynicism get to us, we will achieve as little as those who cultivate the negative forces. If we ignore the chorus of naysayers and nitpickers, there is no limit to what we can achieve to benefit our generation and generations to come.

Let us set out to be madlik and meitiv to the best of our abilities and then watch as the shalheves is olah mei’eileha. Our children and neighbors will bless us and our cheilek will be with Aharon Hakohein.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The News and Us

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

A parade of frightening news has been emanating from Washington and state capitals over the past months, yet we sit by apathetically and involve ourselves with trivialities.

In Eretz Yisroel, the Olmert and Kadima gang are finally out of power, yet the peace charade continues. The young American president presses on with the discredited peace agenda, and together with his secretary of state, chief of staff and other minions seeks to force the new Israeli prime minister into suicidal concessions.

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.” He said, “I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.” 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.”

And his lofty visions and inspiring words made it even worse.

Ariel Sharon pulled Israel out of Gaza, saying that it would bring the hoped-for peace with the Palestinian people. His legacy was carried forward by Ehud Olmert, a man blinded by ambition and hubris.

Just as we and many others predicted, the Gaza withdrawal accomplished little more than to provide terrorists with a new platform from which to launch a jihad against Israel.

As per the instruction of Bush and then 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.

The Arabs don’t like PA President Mahmoud Abbas much more than the Israelis do. He is a farcical character, 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 is corrupt and inept. All his negotiations with Israel are and were a charade.

No one asks the obvious question of why Israel should make peace with a nation sworn to its destruction and which rejects peace deals signed by so-called leaders who don’t represent anyone.

And now that Bush is gone and there is another president in his place, expect the pressure on Israel to get even stronger. He is reversing long-standing US policy and abrogating promises that were made to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by President George W Bush in writing in 2004. As the US abrogates its previous understandings, it demands that Israel honor obligations it made predicated upon those understandings and Arab reciprocity, which of course never happened.

Obama may actually believe the leftist propaganda and think that by negotiating with America’s enemies, a new day will dawn when the sun will always shine and murderers will put down their tools of terror.

As these lines are being written, Obama is preparing for a speech to be delivered in Cairo in which he will stretch out a hand of friendship to the Muslim world where dictators keep their subjects poor and backward as they blame the Jews for their troubles. It is all the fault of Israel, they say. The tiny country of a few million surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arabs in countries all across the horizon, is the cause of all the world’s problems. If only Israel would carve away some of its limited land and give it to a nomadic people sworn to its destruction, peace would rein in the Middle East, long-term calm would result, the world-wide recession would come to a crashing halt, and global warming would cease to threaten the future of mankind.

Last week, while we were celebrating Shavuos, there was another manifestation of the Chazal which teaches that the mountain on which the Torah was given is named Sinai, because when the Torah was delivered to Am Yisroel, a sinah of the Jewish people descended upon the world along with it. An inexplicable animosity began that day, and despite all the progress the world has made since then, the primitive detestation of The Chosen People is as strong as ever.

Hosting the unrepentant terrorist Abbas, whose poll numbers are even lower than New York Governor David Paterson’s, the president made sure to say that he is insisting that Israel stop the settlements, dismantle the outposts and work to alleviate the hardships that the Palestinians are forced to endure due to Israel’s security concerns.

Netanyahu was here last week and promised to move ahead with a three-track peace process as soon as Abbas would recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish country. Abbas refuses to do that. But he wants peace. He really does. Emboldened by Obama’s talk, Abbas now says that he will not talk to Netanyahu until the settlements stop. The Washington Post reported that Abbas is counting on the new US administration to pressure Netanyahu to the point that his government falls and Livni takes over to hand him what he desires.

We read this and we wonder, what is going on here? How can it be that people who are supposed to be so smart act so foolishly? How is it that a candidate who promised to be Israel’s best friend, who raked in Jewish money and votes, is going down this failed road?

Our concern is not just about the Mid-East peace process, it is also in regards to Iran, which threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Does Obama really think that he can sweet talk them into forsaking their genocidal ambitions?

The world that first defeated fascism and 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 states, 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.

In Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh, the Chovos Halevavos states 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 in Hilchos Taanis writes that it is a mitzvas asei to cry out and blow shofros for every tzarah which befalls the Jewish community. This is one of the paths to teshuvah. When a tragedy befalls the community, everyone must acknowledge that it is due to their sins. However, 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 middah of achzorius and ends up deepening and multiplying the tragedy.

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

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, the purpose of botei kneisiyos, and the reason for the zechus of tefillah b’tzibbur - to enable people to publicly gather and acknowledge their Creator.

We must realize, says the Ramban, the foundation of the Torah is that everything which occurs 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 this 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.

We have often cited the words of Rav Chaim Vital in his peirush on sefer Tehillim, where he writes that the final golus will be golus Yishmoel. The exile that will take place under the Yishmoelim will be worse than any previous golus. The Yishmoelim 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 Yishmoel, composed of two words, Yishma and Keil, meaning Hashem will hear, according to the Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer (32).

What is happening now with the offspring of Yishmoel is preordained. In order for us to prevail over Yishmoel, 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 Obama is doing wrong and how he misses the boat, and it won’t make any difference. Everything that happens is from Hashem, 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 meireishis hashanah ve’ad acharis shanah.”

The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (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.

The Gemara 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 that they built bridges and other infrastructure to enable the study of Torah, but how does waging war help the Jews learn Torah?

Perhaps this can be understood to mean that they waged war in order to scare the Jews into doing teshuvah 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, the world stands by and pretends to engage in a process to curtail his ambitions. Yet, he continues on, every day getting closer to attaining his goal.

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, better ourselves and do more for the downtrodden to create more zechuyos for our people.

We have written previously about the problems of abuse and the empathy we must display for the poor victims who, through no fault of their own, suffer lives of pain and anguish. The slew of letters to the editor since the publishing of a landmark column on that topic rip at our hearts and minds when we realize the levels of distress prevalent in our very own community.

We must open our hearts to all who suffer and seek to aid by assisting them any way we can.

There are so many causes we can involve ourselves in. The economic recession has affected so many people we know. Countless families are without a breadwinner and cannot pay their bills. Once proud people are barely hanging on. Rabbeim and moros are not being paid. We should be doing more to bring our resources together to aid people who don’t know where the next dollar will come from.

To improve the world we live in, we must do more to ensure a certain level of morality in the society that surrounds us. We cannot assume that the laws of the land and its mores won’t affect us; they all have an insipient way of creeping in and spreading the rot to us. We’ve seen it with feminism and the creeping affect it is having upon Orthodoxy. Years ago we were told to ignore it, because it won’t affect us, but tragically, we have found the reverse to be true. And now, as it gets closer and closer, we still see no one rising up to say that enough is enough.

As society goes down the tubes, as politicians promote their radical agendas, we cannot ignore what is happening. We must let them know that we cannot support candidates who vote for judges who don’t hew to the constitution and do all they can to supplant the Judeo-Christian moral standards that this country was founded upon.

Most of all, we must arm ourselves with the weapons of the spirit bequeathed to us by Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.