Recently, in the Black Sea, a Russian missile cruiser, flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, was sunk, reportedly by Ukrainian missiles. The name of the ship was “Moskva,” which means “Moscow” in Russian. If the ship was named “Moscow,” you can believe it was important.
This was a huge embarrassment and military defeat for Russia. One can only imagine the fury of President Putin. You will never see emotion on his face, but, behind the walls of the Kremlin, there must have been enormous explosions.
This is dangerous. President Putin will not tolerate embarrassment. This incident ramps up world danger level by a huge factor, and the world was already dangerous. The forces of violence are now at a high level. One spark could ignite a conflagration.
I was davening Shacharis on the Monday after this incident and saying Shir Shel Yom when words jumped off the page. It says there, “B’ruach kadim t’shabair aniyos tarshish … With an east wind You smashed the ships of Tarshish.”
Wow! What does that mean?
What are “the ships of Tarshish?”
We must have a clue here for what is happening in our world. This Chapter of Tehillim discusses the City of Yerushalayim, the city of invincible kedusha. Yes, “invincible” because Yerushalayim in its essence is the eternal dwelling place of Hashem on earth.
The nations have come to attack Yerushalayim ever since our ancestors settled there. They hate kedusha! They want Hashem and His Torah to “go away,” G-d forbid, so they can pursue their unbridled appetites for the “red red porrage” of this world. And so, our Kapital Tehillim says, “The kings assembled. They came together” to attack the “fairest of sites,” the Holy City of Yerushalayim.
But they will fail! At the end of history, Hashem will smash them.
“With an east wind You smashed the ships of Tarshish.”
The wars of the nations always end up involving Am Yisroel upon the receiving end, G-d forbid. There are many enemies of Israel who are waiting for the chance to attack. Could it be that the sinking of this great ship is a sign of what will happen to those who contemplate attacking Hashem’s Holy Nation?
What is this “east wind?”
Hashem has set up the world so the prevailing wind comes from the west. That is, I believe, because the earth rotates toward the east. The atmosphere moves eastward with the rotating earth, so that atmosphere itself is always rotating in an easterly direction. (That is why it takes longer, for example, to fly from Eretz Yisroel to New York than it takes to fly from New York to Israel, because from New York to Israel you are travelling in the direction of the prevailing wind.)
It is an unusual wind which comes from the east, meaning that perhaps it takes a special, unusual exception to the normal rule. A “Noreaster,” meaning a storm with winds from the northeast, is typically strong and violent.
Wind from the east is destructive.
What is Tarshish?
Yona ha Novi fled toward Tarshish. Artscroll comments on the possuk (in Yona 1:3) that “Yona’s intended destination [Tarshish] was westward, while Nineveh (where Hashem had ordered him to go) was to the northeast.” So Hashem sent a violent wind from the east toward Tarshish, which was west of Eretz Yisroel. “Tarshish” also refers to the “Great Sea,” meaning the Mediterranean. (See Artscroll commentary to Shekalim 16b)
“Tarshish” is also one of the stones on the breastplate of the Kohain Gadol (see Shemos 28:20). In Shir ha Shirim, the precious stone called Tarshish is compared to “commandments," where it says that Hashem’s “handiwork is studded with Tarshish/commandments.” (Artscroll commentary to Shir ha Shirim 5:14)
How can “Tarshish” have such opposite meanings, a great sea, a port city inhabited by non-Jews and, yet, a stone on the breastplate of the Kohain Gadol?
In life we have choices.
We can embrace either the ways of the non-Jewish world, G-d forbid, or else, lehavdil, we can live within the daled amos of Torah. If we go after the former, we will land up in foreign ports; we will travel in ships which will be destroyed by the “east wind” sent by Hashem to smash the ships of Tarshish. Look what happened when Yona ha Novi tried to go to Tarshish! His ship was battered and he wound up inside a whale! He could not flee from Hashem! Yona ha Novi was demonstrating the fate of those who try to flee from the Ribono shel Olam!
If we choose Derech Hashem, lehavdil, then our destination will be the ultimate place of Kedusha in the world, the abode of eternal sanctity in the Holy City of Yerushalay-im, “joy of all the earth,” on the Choshen Mishpat of the Kohain Gadol!
This is our choice.
Now we have seen a great ship smashed in the Black Sea, a sea which is connected to Tarshish/the Mediterranean. The forces of violence are gnashing their teeth at the destruction of their great ship, but this is only the beginning of a process which will lead to the day when our enemies will be dispersed forever and we will return in purity to our ancient city, Yerushalayim.
“Mark well in your hearts her ramparts.” Never forget the image of the real Yerusha-layim, the eternal City of our Holy Temple. It will be rebuilt when Hashem finishes smashing the forces of destruction.
We are but mere children in the face of the convulsions that are racking the world today. Good children hold their father’s hand and trust him to guide them through the storms which buffet the world. Hashem will bring us home.
“This is G-d, our G-d, forever and ever. He will guide us like children.”
Daled amos: The space of Torah
Derech Hashem: The Path Hashem has prepared for us
Kapital Tehillim: A chapter in the Book of Psalms
Possuk: Sentence in the Torah
Shir ha Shirim: Song of Songs by Shlomo ha Melech/King Solomon