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!


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