"When you will go out to war against your enemies...." (Deuteronomy 21:10). Thus begins this week's Torah portion. We are learning a lot about war these days.
An observant Jew told me that he cannot imagine Israel existing without the aid of the United States. Many feel that we need the non-Jewish world on our side. Along these lines, I recently received a pro-Israel email entitled, "How can we get these 'Israel vs Hamas' cartoons to the world media?" Similar was a campaign encouraging people to call a radio station with an anti-Israel bias.
My friends, it is time to face reality.
We are in the count-down to the Final Redemption. Our minds are in Exile, but Hashem's plan is to end Exile forever. This means that our entire mental image of "normalcy" will have to be transformed. If we assume that the world of the future will resemble the world we are used to then we may actually be impeding the Final Redemption.
In practice, this means that if we complain to Esau (the Western culture) about Ishmael (the Moslem culture) we are living in fantasy. We are so sick with the mentality of Exile that we do not remember that we are living in Exile! "Halacha ... Esavsonel'Yaakov... It is a law that Esau (the culture of Rome and the Western Nations) hates Jacob." (Sifri Bahaaloscha, Rashi on Bereishis 33:4) Has that law changed? If so, then Exile is over. But Exile is certainly not over! We pretend that the surrounding culture is "normal" and we appeal to them to help us!
Yes, we may have enjoyed many years of peace in certain lands belonging to the culture of Rome and West, but that is exactly the snare of Exile. There was also a time when we thought the Moslem culture was normal and the Western Culture was the enemy. Have we forgotten what happened only seventy years ago?
My friends, Hashem destroyed Ancient Egypt and took us to Mount Sinai. The eighty percent of the Children of Israel who never left Egypt were the ones who clung to the culture of Egypt for support! (Rashi to Exodus 13:18 & 10:22)
Do we really have trust and confidence in Hashem? Every day we say, "Hashem Echad!" Is there another Source of sustenance beside Hashem? How will we ever leave Exile if we keep telling ourselves that we need Esau? Who is going to save us?
Rabbi Chaim Velozhin quotes the Zohar. "Whoever engrosses himself in Torah study need not fear the destructive forces of the world. He is protected from harmful influences from above and below. What's more, he can subdue the demons of the world, casting them down to the bottom of the vast depths." (NefeshHaChaim, Chapter 15)
We are now in Chodesh Elul. We have one job and that is teshuva (repentance). Forget everything else! Nothing will save us except Torah and acts of kindness to each other. Nothing! It is teshuva or nothing! This is a life-threatening moment for the entire world. We need to survive, and there is no other way.
We can learn all this from the structure of our prayer in the ShemonehEsreh. Our Rabbis instituted the following order of prayer: What comes before the Prayer for Jerusalem? The prayer for the Righteous Ones (tzaddikim). The tzaddikim are the guarantors of Jerusalem. They will bring back the Ancient Glory. Not the politicians or the diplomats, but the tzaddikim. Then comes "TsemachDovid" (Moshiach). This all begins with the tzaddikim. They build Jerusalem and bring Moshiach. Then comes Tefillah (prayer)! Not meetings! Not demonstrations! Not protests! Not letters to the media! Not appeals to foreign powers! Only direct communication with our Father and King! What comes after tefilla? The prayer for the Restoration of the Temple Service! "Blessed are You, Hashem, Who restores His Shechina (the Presence of G-d) to Zion!" Prayer will restore the Shechina to Jerusalem! Then we say "Modim," thank you, to Hashem, because He provides everything, and no one else provides anything at all! Finally comes "Shalom," peace. There is no other way to peace! No peace conference will bring peace! No appeal to the "conscience" or "sense of justice" of Esau or Ishmael in any forum or gathering or institution whatsoever will bring peace.
Go through the ShemonehEsreh and see how peace comes! Only one way!
Our thought processes have been warped by millennia of exposure to foreign cultures. "Am levadadyishkon...We are a nation that lives alone!" (Numbers 23:9) Their ideas are foreign and their desires are foreign. "Remember, Hashem, for the offspring of Edom, the day of Jerusalem, for those who say, 'Destroy! Destroy! To its very foundation.'" (Psalm 137)
They destroy, but we lift our heads! "I raise my eyes to the mountains. Whence will come my help? My help is from Hashem, Maker of Heaven and Earth." (Psalm 121)
My friends, this is the Month of Elul and we must wake up. "Surely, the hand of Hashem is not short, [preventing Him] from saving [us]...." (Isaiah 59:1) Did Moses appeal to the United Nations? Did we need "good press" at Mount Sinai? Do we really believe that the world of the media is real? Must we be obsessed with news reports emanating from those who hate us? Must we be constantly afraid of what they think and what they say?
"Yirues Hashem.... Fear Hashem, [you] His holy ones!" (Psalm 34:10) It is time for teshuva. We think that complete reliance on Hashem is unrealistic because we grew up on the fairy tales of the surrounding culture. But they are living the fairy tale, not we. Nothing exists but Hashem and His Torah. Nothing! And our responsibility is to rely on nothing but Hashem and His Torah. This is Truth and this is survival.
The world as we know it is trembling. The prophesies are all coming to pass. Nothing will be left standing except the Pillars of Torah. If we build them and sustain them and hold on to them, we will live to see the Holy Temple.
May we merit that Great Day soon!
Roy S. Neuberger