Look what we read in this past week's Torah portion, Beshalach:
Hashem shall fight the war for you, and you shall remain silent (Exodus 14:14).
Interesting, the above passage is Exodus, chapter 14, verse 14. 14 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "hand" - yad. And, 28 (2x14) is the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "power" - koach.
To this day, Hashem's mighty hand is fighting the war for us. So isn't it logical that the Israeli Government shouldn't bite the hand that not only feeds us, but fights for us too? Once again, that's Hashem's hand.
Throughout modern Israeli history, every time the government attempted to disrupt Torah learning, war broke out. Hashem seems to be saying, "Oh, you politicians have time to meddle with My Torah learners, I'll send some enemy to meddle with you and to keep you busy." But non-emuna eyes are blind, so they fail to see the connection.
The recent Gaza hostilities and the GRAD missiles that reached as far as Tel Aviv came right after all the populist gab of drafting Yeshiva boys. And now, as Bibi dreams of his secular honeymoon with Lapid and a Haredi-less Israeli government, the threat of war in the north amid the chaos in Syria is mounting every minute, and chemical weapons of mass destruction are about to fall into the hands of either Jihadi Sunnis or Hizbulla Shiites. Tension is very high here now. Only a blind man or a fool can't connect the dots.
For years, I've been an active supporter of the Nachal Haredi. Emuna Outreach has been fighting in every possible way for Haredim to receive the necessary conditions they need to serve, such as glatt-kosher food and time for prayers and Torah. I vehemently oppose Haredi draft dodging, and if it were up to me, any young man who is not learning Torah would be doing either national civil service or military service, immediately. But Heaven forbid if one serious young man is yanked away from his Gemara.
What, do you think that Hamas doesn't know how to direct their rocket fire? Is the IDF responsible for all the missiles that fell in parking lots between high-rise buildings, and not on the high-rises themselves? No, that's the power of Torah.
I'd suggest that the government focus its animosity on our enemies, and not on our spiritual front line of defense. If we want Hashem to continue fighting for us, then we cannot lay down any of our own weapons, military and spiritual. Reducing Torah learning is not a shot in the foot, it's a shot in the soul. The only thing worse than a dead body is a dead soul. It's time to strengthen Torah, not to weaken it.
Someone in the IDF who is making decisions either has no combat experience or has never been in a street fight before. Obviously he also lacks emuna in our Torah and in our right to our holy Land of Israel.
Rashi says in his commentary on Chumash, that retreat is the beginning of defeat - he was so right.
Several days ago, armed IDF soldiers made a humiliating retreat from a mob of rock-throwing Arabs in Kafr Kaddum, a village in Samaria. When investigated, the soldiers said they were afraid to open fire for their orders were unclear. Besides, with the leftist attitudes of the self-deprecating secular Israeli media, the leftist judiciary and the government - who often places appeasing foreign governments ahead of the Torah's commandments and protecting its citizens - the soldiers were afraid to use their weapons.
One IDF spokesman justified the soldiers' restraint: "Our duty is to act proportionately. Live fire is the last means. We do not want to fire randomly at a crowd or strike noncombatants. And if we hit a combatant, we are obligated to provide medical assistance," he added.
I'd call rock-throwers combatants. A rock on the head can kill.
There's an important principle in combat, whether in the field or in the street: once the enemy attacks, neutralize him as quickly as you can. The first blow must be totally effective; the fight should be over as soon as possible.
The IDF spokesman with his parlor-room philosophies of "acting proportionately" sounds like the CNN or a European-Union spokesman. This attitude in life-and-death situations is symptomatic of many of the top IDF brass, who - like many of their civilian counterparts - care about car and career benefits much more than they care about Judaism and the homeland. They too are passing the buck, blaming their failures on the politicians that don't let them fight battles to win. To our dismay, few of the decision-making politicians are emuna-oriented.
The soldier in the field blames the officer, the officer blames the GHQ, and the GHQ blames the government. This a pathetic Israeli anti-emuna version of the Old Woman that Swallowed a Fly.
The Hamas in Gaza and the Tanzeem and Jihad in the West Bank no longer fear the IDF. Deterrence is at an all-time low. IDF infantrymen are being chased out of villages by rock-throwing teens. At this rate, Intifada #3 is fast on the way. When our enemies smell fear, they'll go for the jugular. This is not a game - it's survival.
Without observing the Torah, a Jew has no right to the Land of Israel. King David says explicitly at the end of Psalm 105 that Hashem gave us this holyland for the sole purpose of observing His commandments. But, where there's no emuna in Hashem, there's no dedication to our homeland. A soldier who lacks dedication will never be effective. A weak but dedicated soldier can overcome a stronger enemy who lacks faith in what he's doing.
The government and the IDF can take one of two choices: it's either teshuva, emuna and fighting a no-holds-barred battle with a cruel enemy or losing deterrence and running a dozen times a day to the bomb shelters.
Hashem is sending the rock-throwing Pallies to show us just how flabby we've become with our lack of emuna. He wants us to strengthen our emuna and our hold on the holy Land of Israel. Let the old woman swallow flies, but let's fill our mouthes with words of emuna. I hope someone in the government or in the IDF brass is listening. Hashem is now giving us a clear-cut choice - either emuna or another Intifada.
Living without emuna is downright dangerous. Why expose ourselves to danger? We all have a job to do, and that's strengthening our emuna right away. Don't delay!
Image above: the holy gravesite of Mattatyahu son of Yochanan, the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol), father and spiritual leader of the Maccabees
Part of my preparations for Chanuka included a moving and indescribably inspiring visit to the holy gravesite of Mattatyahu Cohen HaGadol, whom we remember every time we say the "Al HaNissim" prayer during Chanuka. He is buried in a cave in a forest, about a kilometer north of Highway 443 near Mevo Modiin.
Mattatyahu and his sons fought a double war - not only against the Syrian Greeks, but against the 95% of the Jewish people who had become assimilated Hellenists. But because of his steadfast, unwavering and uncompromising commitment to Hashem, to his emuna, to the Torah and to his homeland, he was able to overcome all obstacles and instill the fire of emuna and total dedication in the hearts of his brave sons and daughter.
Where did he get his strength and courage from?
Nothing gives a person strength like clarification of the truth. A person who knows the truth and who lives according to the truth is as fierce as a lion. He is not willing to live a lie; so, if you take the truth away from him, he'll no longer regard his life as worth living. That's why our ancestors in every generation all the way back to our forefather Abraham were willing to sacrifice their last breath and heartbeat for our faith in Hashem and our Torah.
Mattatyahu and his sons Yehuda, Elazar, Shimon, and Yonatan knew the truth. For a servant of Hashem, life is worthless without Torah, emuna, and holiness. The Hellenists fooled themselves while trying to dilute the truth and appease the Syrian Greeks, but the latter wanted to destroy it altogether and to substitute it with a life of pursuing bodily amenities.
Did Hashem send our souls down to this lowly earth just for another piece of steak, another fling with the opposite sex, or another NBA game? Those who waste their lives in the pursuit of material appetites are neither happy nor fulfilled. What's worse, they haven't devoted a single minute to clarifying the truth.
21" biceps won't give you courage. Truth and emuna will.
If the Prime Minister of Israel would clarify the truth, no foreign pressure in the world would sway him a single millimeter. If a teenager would clarify the truth, then he'd say no to the stupid things that his peers are doing. If a Jew outside of Israel would clarify the truth and ask himself what Hashem really wants from him, he'd start planning to book a flight for himself and his family to Israel as soon as possible. If a woman knew the truth, she wouldn't care if her neighbors called her "nebby" or "yachna" for dressing the way Hashem wants her to dress.
Mattatyahu and his sons were masters at truth clarification. They weren't willing to live for two minutes without the truth. That's where they derived the courage to fight a virtually impossible war. And that's why they won.
While we're basking in the holy light of the Chanuka candles, let's ponder the real meaning of this beautiful festival that commemorates the miracle of the few prevailing over many, the pure prevailing over the impure, and the light prevailing over darkness. Let's remember the dedication and commitment of Mattatyahu and his sons. Let's strengthen ourselves and carry their torch of Torah and truth, no matter what the odds. We can do it. All we need is emuna. Happy Chanuka!
This exquisite photo of an Israeli Ibex ("Yael") near Ramon Crater courtesy of Joshua Gedalia
Moses blessed the People of Israel before he died, "And Israel shall dwell in security isolated." This is one of the best blessings of Torah, if only we'd heed it...
In the south of Israel in the Negev Desert, lives an amazing creature, the Yael - the Ibex, or Israeli mountain goat. You won't find a more sure-footed animal in creation. It's breathtaking to see the Yael walk along steep and narrow mountain ledges, where the slightest slip means plunging down hundreds of meters to the canyon below. But the fact that the Yael lives in such rugged and trecherous terrain is also his protection. He dwells alone, where no predator or enemy can reach him.
When we the people of Israel dwell on a spiritual high of unshakable emuna, no predator or enemy can reach us either. Perhaps one of the reasons that the Shofar is made from the horn of a Yael is to teach us to be like him. When we put all our trust in Hashem, we too are surefooted and never fall.
The important news is that Chanuka is almost here, reminding us to rid ourselves of any and all foreign influence and dependence. The insignificant news is that Britain and France, the two countries in Europe that will be the first to be taken over by Islam, are threatening (if they haven't already) to recall their ambassadors because of the new housing that's scheduled to be built in Jerusalem, Judea, and Shomron. Sirs, feel completely free to go home to your two-faced and immoral governments.
Any time throughout history when Israel depended on a foreign power led to submission and tragedy. It's about time we did what Hashem wants us to do and not what foreign governments want us to do. The cowardly building freeze in Israel during the last few years as a capitulation to the White House did not bring peace; it only created a shortage of at least 20,000 housing units and drove apartment prices here through the roof. The 3,000 units that the Israeli Government is currently planning are certainly welcome, but still a drop in the bucket.
Don't be afraid as the nations of the world isolate us - Hashem is doing this for our very best and as preparation for the imminent redemption of our people - the Geula. You'd like to be part of the Geula, wouldn't you? Or do you prefer to continue hiding your kippa in your pocket and wearing a baseball hat or a beret so that your hostile neighbors won't know that you're Jewish?
Live like a Yael, with no fear of anyone but Hashem. Vayishkon Yisrael betach badad - "And Israel shall dwell in security isolated."
Sorry, machos, but the Israeli Government is a loser. And a paper tiger. Here's why:
When you fear One, you fear no one. The politicians here fear everyone but Hashem. That's why they're losers. And, they'll continue to be big losers until they make teshuva, big time.
Between 8-9 PM Wednesday evening, Ashdod was hit with four missile attacks.While Israel's political leaders were busy thanking the USA, the UN, and Egypt in the media for their part in the ceasefire (capitulation) that was supposed to take effect at 9 PM Wednesday, Hamas fired multiple missiles at Ashdod at 10:03 PM and at 10:38 PM. I got home from Jerusalem after my weekly broadcast and a long day, and Hamas wouldn't even let me have a peaceful dinner with my wife. They know that they can continue doing whatever they want.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, DC imposed a ceasefire, and Israel's politicians pretend it exists. We here in the south of Israel know that it's a farce. But especially ugly was the PM's statement thanking everyone in the world for engineering the ceasefire except for Hashem. After all of Hashem's miracles, such ingratitude is really a bone in the throat.
Don't get me wrong - the ceasefire, like everything else, is Hashem's will, even if it does seem ridiculous. And it's all for the good too, as everything else Hashem does. First, the ceasefire is designed for all of us here in Israel to take a good hard look at ourselves and to make teshuva, for lukewarm emuna is not enough to win the spiritual struggle against hamas, Hizbulla, and Iran. And second, Hashem will not let an anti-emuna regime succeed, so they won't be able to say that the might of their right hand won the war. So without Hashem, and without invoking Hashem's help, Israel's politicians continue to repeat the ridiculously stupid mistakes of previous conflicts, such as "Cast Lead" in 2009.
Now here this: if we strengthen ourselves in emuna and prayer, Hashem will redeem us quickly despite the government. Hashem loves us infinitely and is doing all this to soften our hearts and strengthen our resolve. The south of Israel is quickly becoming the world capital of emuna - we've seen phenomenal miracles here.
Few will believe me, so I've been saving my breath. The holy Kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda Zeev Leibowitz of blessed memory warned before his death two years ago that difficult times await the Jews of North America. Rather than playing with pointless conjecture and speculations, we'd all be better advised to direct our energies to teshuva, prayer, and strengthening emuna.
Despite our troubles here with the enemies on our borders, Israel is still the safest place on earth for a Jew to be. For anyone that asks me - and I'm not willing to debate the point - start making plans for Aliya right now. Don't let temporary physical amenities and comforts rob you from pursuing an emuna lifestyle. In order to merit the Geula, we must all forsake the Golden Calf and return to Hashem in complete emuna and teshuva. Hurricane Sandy was a louder wake-up call than our current Gaza hostilities. It's time to come home.
There's a hard fact and no-exception rule of spirituality that our prophets and wise men have taught us throughout history: As soon as a Jew trusts in anyone or anything other than Hashem, the object of his trust will not only disappoint him, but turn on him as well. In other words, they thought that they were leaning on the Rock of Gibraltar, but it turned out to be a wobbly reed. This has happened over and over in history, for it's a rule that's ingrained into Creation. Be honest with yourself and contemplate it. It will help you decide what you must do in the nearest future.