In 1948, 1967, and even 1973, Israel’s military prowess seemed invincible. Many Jews felt that their survival in the midst of hundreds of millions of hostile Muslims was due to their own might. This brazen sense of power has since been severely fractured. Israel’s attempts to be the peaceful lamb in its relations with its neighbors have only resulted in reinforcing their desire to devour us.
The government of 1967 wanted to befriend the Arabs, so it left the Temple Mount, which we had just recaptured, in Arab hands. Now our enemies stone us from its heights, and bristle at our presence. Instead of appreciating the unilateral “disengagements” from Lebanon and Gaza, they send bombs. Israel’s apologies for bombing Kana and a UN outpost were accepted as proofs of guilt.
In the recent Lebanon war, Israel came home without defeating Hizbullah and without rescuing its kidnapped soldiers. There is a feeling of despair in the land, a lamenting of the failure of the leaders, of the army, of the national will. “All your enemies have opened their mouths wide against you; they hissed and gnashed their teeth [and] said, “We have engulfed [her]!” (Eichah 2:16, Judaica Press translation.)
We have tried many paths toward peace, only to find that they actually lead to destruction. Where can we turn for comfort, as Islamic fascism flexes its muscles? Psalm 29 gives us the answer: “Hashem oz le-amo yitain, Hashem yevaraich et amo bashalom”: “Hashem will give “oz” to His people; Hashem will bless His people with peace.” Yehuda Ben Taima, in the Mishna in Avot, is telling us something simple: grab hold of the “az” that Hashem has provided for us.
The key to our might, the basis for our persistence, the essence of our success lies in doing the will of our Father in Heaven. If we follow the four animals in the Mishna in Avot, then, like a leopard, sudden transformation and redemption will come upon us. Let the people of Israel be “az kenamayr” to serve God, to take the “az” He provides. Let the nation of Israel be bold, fearless and persistent in its actions. That way, we’ll truly merit Hashem’s blessing of peace.
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The leopard isn’t the largest of the big cats. It’s not feared as a king of beasts. It’s not the fastest, like the cheetah. Rather, the leopard is persistent. A solitary hunter, its sharp vision enables it to see what others can’t. It dwells alone, stalking its prey in the darkness, able to kill animals much larger than itself. It often hauls its prey up a tree, to protect it from jackals and other scavengers.