Superficially, Jewish history is a maze of uncorrelated events with the Jewish people zigzagging throughout the globe and interacting with different nations and cultures in widely diverse conditions.
But just as Kabbalah reveals the inherent unity within creation, it also reveals the underlying unifying thread connecting all our diverse forms of interaction with the non-Jewish world, from the birth of our nation until the end of time.
The essence of Judaism is our quest to develop a relationship with God, to the point of absolute unity. A relationship only becomes meaningful, however, when it remains strong in the face of challenges and counter-forces. (Many couples attest that their relationships have become stronger and solidified because they remained intact in the face of difficult challenges.)
God, too, created forces of negativity in our world to challenge, confuse and put obstacles in the path of our relationship with Him.
All the various nations and cultures that arose throughout the generations were manifestations of the very same forces. Kabbalah calls these forces kelipot, shells. Just as a shell hides what’s inside it, but also protects the fruit, these negative forces were created to hide the truth but also serve to bring out the best in our relationship, when we overcome them.
Abraham was the first Jew. He was given enormous powers of intellect and emotion to perceive the Oneness of God and to spread this knowledge to a world steeped in paganism, immorality and decadence.
The spiritual counter-force in his time was King Nimrod, whose very name comes from the root of mered, rebellion. Nimrod rebelled against truth, spirituality, morality and God.
Nimrod’s arrogance knew no bounds. He was history’s first mighty ruler. Human civilization centered on ancient Babylon in that period and Nimrod, first king of Babylon, ruled with a mighty hand. Convinced he was a god, he commanded his subjects to worship him.
Abraham’s philosophy of submission to God and humility in the face of the infinite Oneness of God were anathema to Nimrod’s arrogance. But all of Nimrod’s might and cruelty was no match for Abraham. Not only did Nimrod fail to crush Abraham and his ideals, when Abraham left the area and moved to the Land of Israel he brought with him tens of thousands of followers who had converted to the true faith.
According to Kabbalah, Nimrod emerges again, reincarnated in the form of the mighty King Nebuchadnezzer, the fierce ruler of Babylon during the latter time period of the first Temple. Babylon was the center of civilization and its architectural masterpieces were the wonder of the ancient world.
The book of Daniel describes Nebuchadnezzer’s insatiable appetite for respect and honor. He declared himself god, erected a huge statue of himself and demanded all his subjects to prostrate themselves as a sign of submission to his unlimited powers. His arrogance was so outrageous that God decided to teach him a lesson and he was turned into a beast, thrust into the wilderness and forced to roam unclothed among the beasts of the field for seven years.
Nebuchadnezzer eventually regained his throne, however, and died a peaceful death. He was never punished for destroying God’s holy Temple, for killing hundreds of thousands of Jews and for forcing them into an exile that has yet to end.
The Zohar predicts that Nimrod/Nebuchadnezzer will return one last time at the end of days so that he can finally receive his punishment for his cruelty and arrogance.
The past hundred years have been marked by many evil people. And while no human being could ever overshadow the men responsible for the savage atrocities of Nazi Germany or the cruel oppression of Communist Russia, Saddam Hussein, the last manifestation of Nimrod/Nebuchadnezzer, stands unique among evil dictators in his insatiable lust and selfish preoccupation with his own power and glory.
When his country was in ruins and thousands of his citizens were dying daily from starvation and lack of medicine due to sanctions imposed after the first Gulf War, this megalomaniac was spending billions of dollars on building himself one luxurious palace after another. As people were dying on the streets of Iraq, Saddam embarked on a project of rebuilding the ancient city of Babylon so that he could proclaim himself, in his words, “the Nebuchadnezzer of modern times.”