Roy Neuberger - Aug. 24, 2018

“Ki seitzei … When you go out to war against your enemies ….” (Dvarim 21:10)


Thus begins our Parsha.   As I write, the headlines read: “200 Rockets Fall into Israel.” So much war!

“Dew: let it drop sweetly on the blessed land, with the delicacies of heaven sate us with blessing, to enlighten from amid the darkness the fundamental nation that is drawn after You…” (Tefillas Tal) Dew is supposed to fall from the sky, not rockets; brachas, not fire-kites.

Our grandchildren are visiting from southern Israel. One saw a balloon here and asked her ima“Is that a fire balloon?” She heard a loud noise, and asked, “Do we have to go in the shelter?” Many nights when they are home, they hear the boom of rockets.  

Is it supposed to be this way? Why can’t we stop this threat? What political and military strategy should we follow? Why do our hands seem tied?

“The Kingdom of Yishmoel will be the last exile, and they will come up to Eretz Yisroel, and no nation will be able to budge them… for Yishmoel, when Hagar threw him under one of the bushes, repented. In the merit of his repentance, Hashem promised to make him into a great nation…. In addition, he was granted Eretz Yisroel for as long as Klal Yisroel is in exile, until the Days of Moshiach.” (Rav Yaakov of Lisa, Emes L’Yaakov, as quoted in Redemption Unfolding)

Why is Yishmoel the last exile?

Let’s look at our two archetypal antagonists, Yishmoel and Esav.

Esav has evolved into Edom and Edom is Rome. (See Rashi on Bereishis 36:43) Rome has evolved into Western Civilization, which is characterized by the creation of great works of building and industry. The ideal is to “conquer nature” through the works of man. Ancient Rome was famous for its aqueducts, roads and siege machines, which – tragically – were used against our own people. Modern Edom has created skyscrapers, rockets, satellites and the entire world of technology. This is the dominant civilization of the West, which has exported its culture to the four corners of the world. This is the nation which labors ceaselessly “tachas ha shemesh … under the sun” (Koheles) and attempts to reshape the world into a technological paradise.

The culture of Yishmoel, on the contrary, is concealed in darkness. Its symbol, in fact, is the crescent moon. Its people are nomadic, trekking restlessly across vast tracts of hostile desert sands. They emanate from “pe’re adam,” (Bereishis 16:12), a creature part donkey and part man. Thus, by nature, they are animalistic and violent: “He shall be a wild-ass of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him.” (ibid)

The role in history of these two civilizations – aside from their constant attempts to destroy Am Yisroel – G-d forbid – has been to dominate the world, which meant that they are by definition in collision with each other.

Esav builds and Yishmael destroys.

This is the hallmark of the past two thousand years. Note the events of 9/11/01. Was this an accident? Not at all. The ancient rivalry and bloody hatred erupts constantly. Look at ongoing bombings and sabotage in European capitals, the very countries which have welcomed Arab refugees. Those who welcome them become their victims.

How is this going to end? The Novi tells us that “the house of Yaakov will be a fire, and the house of Yosef a flame, and the house of Esav like straw … then saviors will ascend Har Tzion to judge Esav’s mountain and the kingdom will be Hashem’s.” (Ovadia 1:18ff)

How will this come about? Perhaps the ancient enemy, Yishmoel, will bring it about.  

“The destruction of Edom will come only through the destruction of this world [as we know it]. Hashem will cause the very foundations of life on earth to collapse. Tranquility will be disrupted, personal lives will be filled with worry, fear and yissurim and the entire world will cower in dread of destruction and devastation…. Only then will the light of Moshiach be revealed….” (Michtav Me’Eliyahu as quoted in Redemption Unfolding, page 75)   

We have to take these words seriously.   

How are we going to endure the turbulent days until Moshiach is revealed? It is useless to think that politics or military action or the friendship of the other nations will save us. Of course we must defend ourselves, but nothing will save Am Yisroel unless we return to Torah. It is no accident that every Shemoneh Esreh begins with the bracha, “magen Avraham!” Who is our Shield if not Hashem! And He is waiting for us to return to Him!   

Why do we not comprehend the most obvious, clear, simple, logical, straightforward thing in the world? Why do we rebel against our only Friend, our only Protector! Don’t we care about ourselves? “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” (Pirkei Avos, 1:14)

Next week we read: “It shall be that if you hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d to … perform all His commandments that I command you this day, then Hashem your G-d will make you supreme over all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you… if you hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d.” (Dvarim 28:1)

It is up to us to bring about our own salvation by embracing Avinu Malkeinu and His Torah!

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, it is time to wake up! A perfect world is just over the horizon, “for just as the new heavens and the new earth that I will make will endure before Me – the words of Hashem – so will your offspring and your name endure.” (Haftaras Rosh Chodesh)

May we see it soon in our days!


Recent Posts


Yerushalayim tremors Jewish holidays sun holy Yaakov Galil Jacob menorah Noah Ashkenazi Beit Hamikdash Heavenly Mercy Repentence matzos Mount Hermon Shechina prophets Balak patriarchs'matriarchs three weeks Red Heifer Sukkah Edom minyan Magog Chafetz Chaim salvation Rosh Hashana Isaac Raiders of the Lost Ark repentance angels Macabees Ten Commandments redemption Zechariah moon Miraglim Haman evil mikveh leprosy Isaiah media resurrection Jerusalem prophet Faith Red Sea pain slaves Garden of Eden locusts Talmud materialism Jewish angel sacrifices Pharaoh heavenly throne Abrahem Samuel Sephardi messiah kiddush blessing Jewish People sin Mordechai Blame Ruth stones Matisyahu darkness Passover Seder Jeremiah seder 2020 Vision tears Pinchas terror End of Days Shabbos mitzvos High Holy Days Mount Sinai plague Moshaich Moshe Bais Hamikdosh song death Rabbis bird New Moon Zohar eternal Adam terrorists trees earthquake Ezekiel Sukkos sanctity terrorism Sabbath self-worship Avraham Canaan Golan kesuba Holiness Tu b'Av Western Wall violence Maccabeans Lot Shushan Banias Rachel idolatry enemies kinneret synagogue heaven Babylon pray Amalek night slavery Achashveirosh spirituality Babylonia chaos Zion deluge shield of Abraham prayers persecution holiday alone Midrash Day of Judgement culture United Nations Judaism bible Sarah mitzva Boaz Purim Matriarchs Holy Temple brotherhood repent Solomon Moab biblical God Benjamin Gog Song of Songs Hebrew Laban Elul siddur Eglon Land of Israel mikveh, Sabbath Sodom Lunar eclipse Rome yeshiva Temple Mount soul Shavuos exile spiritual water rabbi miracles Hashem Final redemption Amram danger King of the Universe incense war light automobiles Samuel the Prophet idol gossip fault lights Hagar purity Holy land Malbim cries secret prayer book barley Exodus Rebecca Torah scholars Sea of Galilee Psalms bris milah eternity Chanukah Torah portion Dead Sea shmittah murder Passover Hasmoneans flood shofar Father in Heaven ancestors fragrance tablets Baku compassion Bilaam yarmulke Jews Psalm Esau Earth Moses Creator king High Priest Chofetz Chaim tabernacle fear miracle Yom Kippur Israel rain Esther Protective edge Master of the Universe Egypt India keys Leah Teshuva hubris Solar eclipse ethics Tisha b'Av Rosh Hashanah Jew Tu b'Shvat Joseph Sages heavenly gates Temple America peace Aharon world to come Judah Rebbe commandment rosh chodesh cholent Greeks Terror Attack in Jerusalem liberation Prophecy priests Children of Israel Torah Ishmael Judgement Day evil inclination Western World Golus spies prophet Samuel Parsha meraglim Abraham Mount Zion Second Temple G-d survival Tefillin terrorist Chol haMoed Rashi Jewish festival prayer Angel of Death forefathers Golden Calf patriarchs esrog Ishamael chessed Geula Zion, Angel Moshiach missiles Ammon dreams King Solomon redeemer Miriam David Ishmeal Holy Ark Chanukkah paradise Divine presence creation Eve Sefiras haOmer fires judgement Rabbi Akiva Nation of Israel King David logic Tallis evolution Maimonides Genesis stars Day of Atonement kosher Tzuk etan Holocaust Europe