Every spring, a pair of swans build their nest on an island across from our home. For ten years we have seen them arrive faithfully. The mother sits on her nest for weeks. If she wants a little break, the father takes over. The nest is always in exactly the same spot, and every day we look out our window to check on the progress of this little family.
Shortly after Passover, the chicks are born. There are always four babies; dark grey in color, they don’t look much like swans in the beginning, but soon they are in the water with mommy and daddy. Daddy swims first, followed by the children, with mommy taking up the rear. Soon, the babies get bigger, whiten up and begin to look like swans. After a while, they go off on their own and we don’t see them anymore. Next year it happens all over again.
Until this year.
We didn’t quite realize that this “island” is only an island at high tide. But when the tide goes out, it’s connected to the mainland, a tidal marsh that’s part of a wildlife sanctuary. As my wife was cleaning for Passover this year, our housekeeper – who keeps a keen watch on the wildlife scene – let out a yell.
“Call the police!”
My wife rushed over to the window. Mommy and daddy swan had abandoned the nest. There, snarling and slavering, were three wild dogs, snapping at the swans and forcing them into the water. The “head” dog, in his frenzy, even splashed into the water after them. And then the dogs ate the swans’ eggs.
The mother swan still sits on her nest, but it is empty.
We can learn a lot from nature. We are in the midst of Sefira, a time for exalted spiritual growth, but also a time of danger, during which the Children of Israel have suffered terribly throughout history.
The dogs are circling, snarling, threatening the innocent ones. The world is filled with danger.
Once we had shepherds; we had protection. Many of those shepherds are no longer with us. Who are the shepherds if not the great Torah leaders of Israel, who by their presence shield us from harm? How many have left us during the past months, years, decades?
I remember Rabbi Avraham Pam, zt”l. I was privileged to meet him on several occasions and felt I was in the presence of an angel. He was physically small, yet he towered over the world in the profundity of his humility and Torah greatness. He passed on to the World of Truth some two weeks before the attack on the Twin Towers, and I remember someone saying it would not have happened had he been alive.
The Torah shepherds protect us; their greatness is our shield. The first blessing in the Shemoneh Esreh ends with the words “magen Avraham,” the shield of Abraham. God finds ways to protect us, but we must exert ourselves to be worthy.
And now the dogs circle around us, their fangs exposed, their tongues hanging out. The president of Iran openly declares his intentions, his hatred of our people. Innocent boys are slaughtered over their Gemaras, holy souls in the halls of Torah, and the dogs of the world dance and jump. Some of them are shown on the news; most of them are not. They mock us and lick their tongues, waiting for their moment to arrive, God forbid.
What are we to do?
My book, “2020 VISION,” set to be released this week by Feldheim Publishers, begins with a striking quotation from the Malbim (Rabbi Meir Leibish ben Yechiel Michel):
In the End of Days, after the Children of Israel have returned to their land, the children of Ishmael [the Muslim nations) and the children of Esau [the Western nations] will unite to attack Jerusalem. They will form a world coalition against the tiny nation of Israel. But something will go wrong with their plan. The religious beliefs of the children of Ishmael and the children of Esau will clash, and the two nations will collide and destroy each other. This is what is referred to as the War of Gog and Magog. Following this cataclysmic conflict, the Final Redemption of the Jewish People will occur with the coming of Messiah the Son of King David.
This is our answer to the dogs.