Certain places have a history of misfortune.
Chazal say, “[Shechem was] a place predestined for misfortune. In Shechem they violated Dinah; in Shechem the brothers sold Yosef; in Shechem the kingdom of the House of Dovid was split.” (Sanhedrin 102a)
What about Gaza?
I am indebted to our dear son-in-law, Rabbi Avi Hess, for bringing the following to my attention. Sefer Devarim states, “As for the Avvim who dwell in open cities until Gaza, the Caphtorim who went out of Caphtor destroyed them and dwelled in their place.” (Dvarim 2:23) Rashi says on this possuk, “The Avvim are of the Pilishtim …. Because of the oath which Avraham swore to Avimelech, Israel was not able to take their land away from them ….”
The oath to which Rashi refers takes place in Parshas Vayeira, where Avraham Avinu makes a pact with Avimelech, king of Gerar. Apparently Avimelech’s territory included Gaza. Because of the pact, Avraham’s descendants were bound not to enter Gaza until the Caphtorim evicted the Avvim.
The trouble in Gaza goes back a long way.
Here is how the Torah describes the pact: “So Avraham took flocks and cattle and gave them to Avimelech and the two of them entered into a covenant. Avraham set seven ewes of the flock by themselves. And Avimelech said to Avraham ‘What are these seven ewes which you have set by themselves?” (Beraishis 21:27-29)
Listen, please, to the earth-shaking words of the Midrash on these possukim.
“Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to [Avraham], ‘You gave seven ewes [to Avimelech against My wishes. Therefore, I swear] by your life that I will delay the happiness of your children for seven generations. [Furthermore … I swear by] your life that … Avimelech’s children will kill from amongst your children seven righteous people (among them Shimshon, Shaul Hamelech and his three sons. Furthermore] … they will destroy seven sanctuaries of your children. [Furthermore] My ark will go around in the land of the Pilishtim for seven months….” (Midrash Rabbah Beraishis)
Artscroll comments: “Although it would have been improper for Avraham to push off Avimelech entirely … he could have sufficed with an oath. But, as stated in Eliyahu Rabbah (and other places), it was wrong of Avraham to enter into a covenant with Avimelech, who was an idolater.” (Yefeh To’ar; see also Eitz Yosef).”
An apparently logical agreement between our Father Avraham and Avimelech resulted in catastrophe through the millennia, down to the present horrible war in Gaza. The lesson of this Midrash seems to be that we are not allowed to rely on other nations.
“Ain od milvado … You have been shown in order to know that Hashem He is G-d. There is none beside Him.” (Dvarim 4:35) Am Yisroel has to learn to place our trust only in Hashem.
My friends, I would like to quote from my book, “Hold On: Surviving the Days Before Moshiach.”
There is almost certainly going to come a time – possibly very soon – when, like the Children of Israel at the Red Sea, we are literally surrounded and we … have no logical hope for survival. What will we do then?
We will have only One Place to turn.
The words of Dovid HaMelech: “All the nations surround me. In the Name of Hashem I cut them down. They encircle me; they also surround me. In the Name of Hashem, I cut them down. They encircle me like bees, but they are extinguished as a fire does thorns. In the Name of Hashem I cut them down.” (Tehillim 118)
When all “logical” methods fail, we realize there is nothing left besides Hashem. In Ancient Egypt … Hashem rescued us at the last second. We always … hit bottom before we bounce up. “In the evening, one lies down weeping, but with dawn, a cry of joy!” (Tehillim 30)
At that time, we will turn to Hashem “b’chol levavcha uv’chol nafshecha uv’chol m’odecha … with all our heart, all our soul and everything we possess” and beg Him to save us.
“Rabbi Yitzchak taught: In the year in which Moshiach will be revealed, all the nations of the world will be in conflict. The King of Persia will quarrel with the King of Arabia and the King of Arabia will go to the King of Aram to seek counsel from him. And the King of Persia will destroy the entire world. The nations will be confused and agitated and will be seized with fear and pains like the pangs of birth.
May Hashem have mercy upon us and bring the Geulah Shelemah with the speedy coming of Moshiach ben Dovid!
Chazal: The rabbis of the Mishna and Gemora
Ewes: Female sheep
Geulah Shelemah: Final Redemption