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September 1, 2015 / 17 Elul, 5775
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A Simple Teaching, Difficult To Understand


Rebbetzin Jungreis, left, with Rebbetzin Kanievsky.

Rebbetzin Jungreis, left, with Rebbetzin Kanievsky.

I am interrupting my series on “Yom Tov Mayhem,” focusing on adult children who come home for the holidays with their families and expect their mothers to be cook, housekeeper and baby-sitter all rolled into one. How to deal with this problem without damaging relationships will, please G-d, be the topic of my next column.

These days, events occur with such speed that before we absorb one, another is upon us. Additionally, our attention span has become nil. We no longer know how to listen; even while someone is talking to us, we are busy texting someone else or scrolling through our e-mail messages.

We have recently lost many great Torah sages, but I wonder if we truly feel the terrible void that has been left. And now, the beloved  Rebbetzin Bathsheva Kanievsky  has been called on high. Her sudden demise represents a tragic loss, especially to the many thousands of women who found solace and comfort through her loving guidance, wisdom and sage advice. May her holy neshamah have an aliyah and may she continue to daven for all of us.

This past week also saw much jubilation and thanksgiving. For five years, all of us have been davening for the safe homecoming of Gilad Shalit, and now, Baruch Hashem, we have seen our prayers answered. I realize there has been some controversy over the exchange that made his freedom possible – a thousand savage terrorists for one frail, painfully thin Jewish soldier. To many it is incongruous to even imagine that such a disproportionate, seemingly suicidal deal could be struck. Surely this was a grossly dangerous exchange.

I am not going to argue the pros and cons, but I do know our sages teach that all those who save one life,  it is accounted to them as though they saved an entire world. Of course you may protest, “At what price? These savage killers could, G-d forbid, take many more lives and encourage more kidnappings.”

I am not a halachic expert and I am not here to make a judgment call on that. We are Am Yisrael, and we march to the tune of a different drummer. We are not unaware of the terrifying dangers this deal represents, but just the same, to us every Yiddish neshamah is precious, so even as we offer prayers of thanksgiving for Gilad’s homecoming, we also pray that Hashem will protect us from these barbaric monsters and that they will perish before they can inflict more harm.

Throughout the years I have taught that one can always find some sort of “remez” – allusion – in the parshah (weekly Torah portion) to events that are unfolding before our eyes. This time, it is not only the parshah but the Book of Psalms as well that stunningly confirms this teaching.

The Book of  Tehillim designates a psalm for each day of the week. Gilad Shalit was released on the third day –  Tuesday – for which the psalm is number 60. There are two words in that psalm that jump out and demand our attention – sukkot and gilad. Indeed, the release occurred on the holiday of Sukkot, followed by the words, “li gilad – “Gilad is mine.”

As for the parshah we just read on Simchat Torah, it is written, “And Hashem showed him the entire land – the gilad” (Deut. 34:1).

Farfetched? Coincidence? Remez? Take it as you will, but the fact is that these are the passages we were reading from the Torah and the Book of Psalms at the time Gilad Shalit was returned to his land. So put aside your Blackberry and your cell phone for a few moments and think. Think some more and absorb.

For a long time now, in many of my messages throughout the world, I have quoted a passage from our sages that teaches that our final redemption will be akin to the first one when we went forth from Egypt. In Jewish history, everything is replay. What was it that broke Pharaoh and Egypt?  The Ten Plagues. And today we have experienced the beginnings of the very same phenomena. Time and again I have demonstrated how each of these ancient plagues has unfolded  before our eyes.

At one of my programs, a young girl approached me. “I have to admit, your examples cannot be refuted,” she said, “but what about the plague of wild beasts that roamed the streets of ancient Egypt? Surely such occurrences could never happen in the 21st century.”

Well, last week we witnessed the unbelievable: lions, tigers, wolves, bears and monkeys, roaming the streets of Zanesville, Ohio. Can you imagine looking out of your window one morning and seeing lions and bears in front of your home? You’d probably shake your head in disbelief and think your were having some sort of nightmare.

Yes, events are unfolding so rapidly that even as they do, we remain immune. We are so preoccupied with our addictive gadgets that we don’t see, we don’t hear, and we don’t think, but while we are playing games,  time is relentlessly marching on. The signs are becoming more and more intense and menacing, but we congratulate ourselves and rejoice in a false sense of security.

Bin Laden and Khaddafi have been killed, so what is there to fear? We forget that even before their elimination they had become “has-beens” and  no longer represented a global threat. Tragically, we are oblivious to the new menace that threatens us: Iran.

Just recently, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s long arm reached the U.S. where he planned to murder the Israeli and Saudi ambassadors. Make no mistake about it, he has many partners ready to execute his nefarious plans and some of them are right here in our own neighborhood. Just consider  Chavez of Venezuela. And he has these partners throughout the world, the most dangerous being Israel’s Muslim neighbors who, in the guise of democracy and with the support of the U.S., have overthrown their dictators.

These terrorists have been romantically dubbed Revolutionaries of the Arab Spring, but they are the harbingers of  a bitter Arab winter that could freeze the world.. They have only one agenda and message: Kill the Jews! Obliterate Israel!

Ironically, it is Washington that helped choreograph this ominous scene. With America’s blessing, Mubarak of Egypt and Khaddafi of Libya have been eliminated, paving the way for Iran’s domination of the region. It is maddening when you think about it.  It was only yesterday that America helped unseat the shah of Iran, paving the way for the mullahs to take over and impose sharia law and for the eventual emergence of Ahmadinejad.

As I write these words, the murderer of Khaddafi is celebrating, but even as this news reaches us from Libya, so does the announcement that henceforth sharia will be the new law of the land. Ahmadinejad is laughing. Not only has Washington tied Israel’s hands, it has also eliminated all his neighbors who might have obstructed his path. To be sure, he has one more obstacle to overcome: American troops stationed in Iraq. But not to worry – Washington will soon pull them out as well.

As my readers know, I am a survivor of the Holocaust. I smell the toxic fumes that assailed us in pre-Hitler Europe, but not only has our generation lost its ability to see and hear, we have also lost our sense of smell, so as the fumes assail our nostrils, we fall asleep and become oblivious.

I have just touched on a few events that must give us pause, but there is much, much more. When will we realize there is no one to help us here on earth – that in the entire world there is no one to even raise a voice on our behalf? We, the Jewish people, are like one little lamb among 70 ferocious wolves who stand ready to pounce upon us and totally devour us.

There is only One source of help for us, only One support, and that is our Heavenly Father, Almighty G-d. From time immemorial He has saved us from their clutches. We need not fear. We need only turn to Him – and if we do so, not only will He answer us, He will take our hands and lead us through the dense darkness that looms menacingly before us.

“If only My people would heed Me – If  Israel would walk in My way, I would subdue their foes and against their tormentors turn My Hand…” (Psalm 81).

What a simple teaching, and yet how difficult to understand.

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