We are here again at Parsha Beshalach 5784 and we’re standing at the sea, nowhere to go, crying out to God, hoping for a miracle, as a perpetual practice I reflect on what I wrote last year, and in last year’s blog I wrote that a terrorist killed seven innocent people on the holy Shabbat, and massacre was forgotten about and we sort of moved on from it, and that was a tragedy because these little massacres take place and where not enough to change our psyche, and it took the events of October 27th to change that. So I’m going to re-share what I wrote, the words are so relevant.
I want to share a few ideas from EIM HABANIM SEMEICHAH, written by Rabbi Teichtal whose Yahrzeit was this week.
“First published in 1943, Eim Habanim Semeichah remains the most comprehensive treatise on Eretz Yisrael, redemption, and Jewish unity. Much of this remarkable work has been proven prophetic by the passage of time. It is truly a priceless treasure.
The saintly author, Rabbi Shlomo Teichtal, originally shared a prevalent, strict Orthodox view which discouraged the return to Zion. The Holocaust, however, profoundly changed his perspective. The annihilation of unprecedented numbers of his fellow Jews forced him to seek explanations. Thus, relying almost exclusively on his phenomenal memory and keen insight, he investigated the matter exhaustively. His conclusions are eye-opening! The Jewish people will find refuge from their troubles, he argues, only if they unite to rebuild the Land. This will bring about the ultimate redemption.”
“Our holy writings explain that the most difficult suffering of exile will begin only after the initial onset of redemption.
Rashi concurs in his commentary on the verse Like a pregnant woman close to giving birth, she is in pain, she cries out in her pangs So were we before You, O Lord (Yeshayah 26:17):
We observe renewed afflictions and conclude that they are a sign of salvation and redemption, for we have been promised that we will be redeemed amidst trouble and hardship, like a woman in labor. Before You [means] because of Your decrees.
We must lovingly bear and courageously endure all of the hardships, not lose evil decrees, and persecutions that have befallen us in these days, faith for they are considered wholly burnt offerings. We must not become during these skeptical (God forbid), nor speak in the manner foretold by the last troubled prophet. He prophesied about the era of “the birthpangs of Mashiach” times when abundant and unusual afflictions will prevail:
Therefore, every Jew will certainly strengthen himself during these difficult times and guard himself from slipping, because the time will surely come when the prophecy will be fulfilled, and the difference between those who serve God and those who do not will become apparent. Each Jew will live up to the prayer “And despite all this we have not forgotten Your name.”” It is worthwhile for us to bear the heavy burden of exile on account of the great reward that the Holy One Blessed be He will bestow upon us on the day that He will appoint as His particular day. For on that day, He will reward each individual based on the deeds he performed with God.
Why Must Mashiach Come by way of Afflictions?
It seems, however, quite incomprehensible why HaShem would do such a thing. Why would He bring us Mashiach by way of great afflictions? Is HaShem incapable (God forbid) of saving us without misfortunes? Could our righteous Mashiach not come with an overabundance of good?
We are The Or HaChayim HaKadosh reveals the answer with his Ruach worthy HaKodesh. He explains that there are actually two aspects of the of his coming of Mashiach. The first is one of loftiness and grandeur, which coming amidst is expressed by Chazal as, “If they are worthy” (Sanhedrin 98a). The second is one of poverty and distress. The prophet Zecharyah alludes to this, Behold, your king will come to you…poor and riding upon a donkey (9:9). This is the aspect of, “If they are not worthy” (Sanhedrin 98a). If we do the will of the Omnipresent and fulfill His command- ments, redemption will arise amidst prosperity and grandeur. If, however, we do not fulfill His will, redemption will inevitably come amidst adversity, distress, and poverty. The hardships will serve as a substitute for the merit that we would have had by keeping the Torah and its mitzvot. (
Parsha Beshalach 5783
I have included here my thoughts from previous years. I start by expressing my anger, sadness and resilience. I then ask — What is our merit to this Land? and this follows with the question — Are we ready to face our challenges? I think this sums up our predicament today.
Anger, sadness and reliance
The emotions are raw. And they should be.
A terrorist attacks and kills 7 innocent unarmed people on the holy Shabbat.
I want to learn from the Parsha and explore teachings that are relevant today.
In the Parsha, we were trapped and had nowhere else to go to. Likewise, Israel is our home, and after 2000 years in the desert of exile and persecution, we have nowhere else to go to.
Pharaoh and his army targeted civilians. The targeting of civilians is a war crime. Terror is a war crime. The IDF does not target civilians. The IDF avoid at all costs and considerations the targeting innocent and unarmed civilians.
They cried out to Hashem. We cry out to Hashem. Their faith was tested. Our faith is tested. We ask- why is this happening? Why can we not live in peace? Why can the Arabs and the world not accept the historical right and our national, legal rights to our homeland?
We seek peace. They seek war, terror and conflict.
After the miracle of the sea, we sang God’s praise. It did not last long, and the children of Israel sunk back into criticism, sin and mistakes. After the miracles of 1948 and 1967, we too, are mired in troubles.
Rabbi Sacks brings down the message of resilience. We learn resilience from our challenges in the desert. Baruch Hashem, we have developed resilience. But this resilience is dependent on Unity, which is sorely lacking today.
What is also missing is a desire for peace and acceptance. The Palestinians have a good- high standard of living. They have freedom of movement. Not so, us. We cannot go to their villages. We are prohibited by law and possibly lynching. This country has enough land and opportunity for everyone.
I live in an area that is full of Arabs. They walk around freely, and we share the same parks, the cleaner in the building, the bus driver, and the doctor. And what is sad the fear of never knowing that the next victim could be my Shul, myself or my neighbour.
Yes, we smile at each other; I do not know their language, which by itself is a problem. And, I am left with bad thoughts, Maybe, maybe, they want me dead.
They have funding and backing from the UN, EU and US, who direct that funding to keep the Palestinians a thorn in our side. The Torah commands us to have no compassion for our enemies in the Land. Do we need to really subdue them for us to exercise our sovereign rights? Perhaps, because we do not exercise our rights, they despise us. Like being a parent who does not discipline his child, or set boundaries, that child will rebel and despise his parents. They despise us because we are not strong in our beliefs.
Oh, but what about Tikkun Olam?
Last Friday, I was discussing with the CEO of the Agro business that I am involved with some funding routes. He said that there is much funding for the Palestinian projects, and we made some notes on how to go about doing a project with Palestinian Olive growers. After the massacre over Shabbat, I am dejected and lost interest. How sad.
So, here I am, sitting in my hilltop apartment in Jerusalem in the early dark morning, listening to the wind and spitting rain and hoping for a real downfall of rain to wash away my anger, sadness and despair.
Waiting for better days. Praying for better days.
What is our Merit?
So, here we are facing uncertainty, war, and death. Hoping and praying for a miracle.
ויאמר משה אל־העם אל־תיראו התיצבו וראו את־ישועת יהוה אשר־יעשה לכם היום כי אשר ראיתם את־מצרים היום לא תספו לראתם עוד עד־עולם׃
And Moses said to the people, Do not fear, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see them again.
We are standing at the Red Sea. The Sea splits, we march threw and when our pursuers chase us, they drown.
We are saved; we sing songs of praise. We are Free.
And then Amalek comes. Puts doubts in our minds.
Life again has its challenges.
Fast forward to May 1948.
We as a people have just suffered the most despicable trauma and decimation through the Holocaust. We have been gifted a state of our own. Not a full state, but a start. We were warned not to declare the State of Israel. We do and are immediately attacked by the Arab countries supported by the British. No other country will supply us with weapons. We are alone, the survivors of the Holocaust, facing being wiped out.
We need a miracle.
We have no choice. So, we cry out to God? We have no choice but to fight.
We are standing at our splitting of the sea moment.
Let’s pause here.
i have just finished reading the book ‘ The Hope” by Herman Wouk an observant Jew. it is a riveting tale, and through this book, based on fact and fiction, there is a tension between faith, miracles, boldness,and luck.
There are a few thoughts that I want to share.
1. Israel was alone. We could not secure weapons. No country wanted to supply us with tanks. Even our fair-weathereded friend — The USA. The world, through the UN was Anti Israel.
Although we are stronger today, we are still very much singled out amongst all the nations of the world.
2. Morality and Merits
In the Hope, the author highlights extra marital affairs and eating shrimps as this is a normal thing.
I am not sure what motivated him.
We are told that 80% of the adults in Egypt did not merit being redeemed and died in Egypt.
Today, we say that 80% of Jews do not identify with Judaism or Zionism. They are happy to assimilate. But what about the children — the next generation? How can they be inspired them to keep the Jewish faith? Inspired to support the only Jewish state — Israel?
i heard a beautiful thought on what happened to those children of the 80% of those who died in Egypt. The children were innocent and did not die.
They were adopted by Families who went out of Egypt. So, each family adopted 4 families. this is one of explanations of וחמשים Chumushim..
ויסב אלהים את־העם דרך המדבר ים־סוף וחמשים עלו בני־ישראל מארץ מצרים׃
But God led the people around, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea; and the people of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt.
The care of looking after these children was a meritorious act. This was no easy feat.
This is not dissimilar to 1948 when Israel absorbed so many refugees and survivors.
And we stand here today.
Our enemies, within and without continue to question our right to exist. We are the only people country whose right to exist is questioned.
When we left Egypt, the children of Israel did not have so many merits and in some accounts, they were not worthy of being redeemed. Maybe they earned the merit by looking after the surviving children.
Maybe, our redeeming feature is an aspiration to a more caring and just society and world.