Let’s face it: this is not going to be an ordinary year.
We are praying very seriously this year because we are praying for our lives. Yes, I know: every year we pray for our lives. But how many feel it? This year, whether we want to or not, I think we are beginning to feel it.
Let’s examine the world picture. When you consider history, you can see that the events of the past several thousand years are leading toward a climax. This is even more obvious when you look at history from a biblical perspective. It makes perfect sense to consider world history from a biblical perspective because the Torah is written by the Author of history and the Creator of the world. So the Torah’s perspective is, by definition, accurate.
Let’s go to the very beginning of our national existence.
Avraham Avinu and Sarah are about to found the Nation of Israel. Sarah is unable to have children and so she temporarily gives over her conjugal rights to Hagar, whose son Yishmael is also Avraham’s son. Later, Sarah gives birth to Yitzchak, and Hashem says the famous words to Avraham, “Through Yitzchak will offspring be considered yours” (Bereishis 21:12).
Right here the seeds are sown for dissension over who is the legitimate heir to Avraham. The Torah is very clear on this point, but those who don’t want to listen to the Torah have a vested interest in distorting its words. The dissension has lasted to this very day, with hatred on the part of Yishmael’s descendants undiminished in strength and viciousness. Yishmael raises his children in every generation not just to hate us but to make their lifework the attempt to redress the alleged wrong that was committed so many centuries ago.
“Sarah saw [Yishmael]…mocking [Yitzchak]” (Bereishis 21:9).
As I wrote in my book Worldstorm, citing Bereishis Rabbah 53:11,
Our sages tell us that “mocking” means violence and bloodshed. “Yishmael said to Yitzchak, ‘Let us go and see our portions in the field.’ Then Yishmael would take a bow and arrow and shoot them in Yitzchak’s direction, while pretending to be playing. Yishmael pretended to play, but his game was murder.”
In the following generation, a similar situation occurred, although this time the conflict arose not between half brothers but rather twins with diametrically opposite personalities. Eisav was born “ready-made” while Yaakov, on the contrary, would spend his entire life trying to perfect his personality. Their rivalry began, as we know, in the womb and reached a crescendo when “Eisav cried out an exceedingly great and bitter cry” (Bereishis 27:34) at the moment he discovered that Yaakov had received their father’s blessing.
There is a fascinating insight into the hatred of Yishmael and Eisav. After Yitzchak blesses Yaakov, we find this pasuk: “So Eisav went to Yishmael and took Mahalath, the daughter of Yishmael son of Avraham…as a wife for himself” (Bereishis 28:9). Immediately after this, the Torah tells us that “Yaakov departed from Beer-Sheva” (Bereishis 28:10).
What does Eisav marrying Yishmael’s daughter have to do with Yaakov Avinu leaving Beer-Sheva? It seems that when our two primeval enemies team up, we are in very great danger. The origin of this is shown in the Chumash. When Eisav marries into the family of Yishmael, Yaakov Avinuleaves Israel! It is bad enough when we have to contend with Yishmael or Eisav separately; when they get together it is extremely difficult for us to deal with.
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And so it is in our times. Today the world is lining up against us, whether shells are flying from Gaza or bris milah is being attacked in Germany. When we try to defend ourselves against Arab terrorists, the descendants of Eisav spring to their defense. As we say in Tachanun, “Look from heaven and see that we have become an object of scorn and derision among the nations; we are regarded as sheep led to slaughter, to be killed and to be destroyed, for beating and for humiliating….” Yishmael and Eisav have linked hands against us. As the Prophet says, “Behold a day is coming for Hashem…. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem for the war…” (Zechariah 14:1; haftara for the First Day of Sukkos). So the age-old crusade against Am Yisrael is reaching a climax; Yishmael and Eisav have grasped hands. But do you think they love each other? Their friendship is only a temporary expedient. Before long their true nature will emerge.