Special Note: In last week’s column I wrote about the seemingly inexplicable events that are unfolding throughout the world. How do we understand the demonization of Israel, the new escalation of anti-Semitism, and the preponderance of Islamic terrorists throughout the world?
Whenever we encounter challenges, be they major or minor, general or personal, it is always best to consult the Torah. But, you might ask, where are we to look? To which page should we turn?
It is always best to focus on the first place the subject is mentioned for the first is always definitive. So if we are to understand Yishmael and the terror he is inflicting, we should turn to the very first time we encounter him in the Torah.
In the Book of Genesis (16:11), the angel of G-d appears before Hagar and informs her that, ” she will have a son whom she is to call Yishmael. He will be a “Pere Adam – a wild donkey of a man…his hand will be into everything and everyone’s hand will be with him all over the world.” For thousands of years, this prophecy seemed farfetched and irrelevant. The descendants of Yishmael were a backward, nomadic people – certainly not major players on the world scene.
But we are the generation of Ikvesa d’Moshicha – the generation that precedes the coming of Messiah that has been destined to see the fulfillment of this prophecy, that will have to contend with the terrible tribulations and suffering that Yishmael will inflict.
Indeed, our own eyes have seen the barbaric savagery of which this “Pere Adam” is capable. Do you recall Daniel Pearl, who, prior to being beheaded, was forced to proclaim his crime, “I am a Jew?” And we have since seen multitudes of Daniel Pearls. Do you recall the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped and brought to Ramallah? They didn’t simply kill him – they hacked him to pieces and then threw his mutilated body out of the window and even as they did so, they gleefully held up their bloody hands in a sign of victory while the mob danced and stomped on his corpse.
But why, you might ask, am I bringing up yesterday’s news? Precisely because it’s not yesterday’s news. Alas, it is today. Each and every day our plight becomes more critical. We are the generation that has been destined to see Yishmael’s long arm reaching out to all, all reaching out to him, establishing cells in every country, on every continent.
With the passage of time, however, we have become inured, and we no longer understand that which our eyes behold, and that which our ears hear. We have bought into the world’s propaganda: “It’s all politics. It’s all because of Israel. … Israel must be more flexible, and then peace will be attained.” So, the pundits have come up with many solutions – the foremost being, two states living side by side.
A two-state solution will not do it however – Yishmael has no interest in it. He is determined that there be only one state – a “Yishmaeli” state in which the Moslem laws of Sharia prevail. Thousands of years ago in the Torah, our mother Sarah foresaw this and prophetically declared, “The son of this handmaiden shall not inherit with my son!” Yishmael cannot share this land with Isaac!
But our generation has chosen to disregard our mother Sarah’s warning. It considers itself smarter than G-d’s Torah and spurns the gift of the land that G-d gave us, the Jewish people, as an eternal inheritance. We follow our own paths, the machinations of our own hearts and assure ourselves that we can make it come out right. We tell ourselves that we need only make a deal and negotiate. After all, people are reasonable. If they are approached peacefully and amicably, they will respond in kind. So we have made deal after deal only to see more and more carnage.
We even did that which no sovereign nation in the annals of mankind has ever done. We forcibly evicted our own people from their homes, uprooted them from their farms – from the beautiful gardens that they created from the wastelands of the deserts. We ejected them from their synagogues and then went on to destroy those houses of worship. We made our people refugees in their own land, and we did all this to appease Yishmael.
Not surprisingly, Yishmael expressed his appreciation for our largesse and sacrifice by launching Kassam rockets against our towns and villages, terrorizing our men, women and children day and night.
You might think that after all this we would have learned our lesson. You might think that the world would finally understand. But no such luck. The more vicious Yishmael becomes, the more olive branches are thrown at his feet, the more pressure placed upon Israel.
This pressure emanates, not only from traditional, anti-Semitic sources, but from our American government as well. The concessions that Washington demands of Israel are nothing short of suicidal. And yet, no one seems to care.
Additionally, the administration has given the green light to Iran’s nuclear power program, provided, of course, it is used only for peaceful purposes! If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable. Don’t they realize that we…no, the entire world, heard Achmadinejad openly proclaim his intention to wipe Israel off the map?
So what, you may ask, is the solution? What are we to do? How are we to deal with Yishmael and our menacing world?
There is an answer to that, too, in the Torah. It is right there staring us in the face. We need only open our eyes. Even as our crises emanates from Yishmael, so does our solution. It is to be found in his name, which means “Yishma-Keil – G-d will listen.” We need only turn to G-d in genuine prayer and our salvation will come. It is as simple as that.
You might smile at my naiveté, but there is nothing naive about the Word of G-d. It is the only truth that has passed the test of time. I, a survivor of the Holocaust, can testify to that. If we would only allow a moment of truth to illuminate our hearts, we would readily concede our pitiful state. Just consider that we, the nation that has taught a pagan world about G-d… that introduced the language of prayer to humanity… that has lent meaning to the concept of faith and trust, has forgotten how to turn to turn to G-d, to trust Him, to have faith in Him and pray to Him.
To be sure, there are those among us who do storm the Heavenly Gates with sincere, heartfelt prayers, but sadly, they are few and far between, while the vast majority squirms at such simplistic concepts and has difficulty reaching out to G-d. We are a nation that is bound by a common covenant, which renders us all responsible, one for the other. It is as one that we stood at Sinai and proclaimed, “Na’aseh V’Nishma – We shall do it and we shall study it,” and it is as one that we must now return to our G-d.
The time has come to don our priestly garments – the time has come to give meaning to the beautiful prayer that we chant every Lail Shabbos – Shabbos eve, “Shake off the dust, arise! Don your glorious clothes, O My people…” (Lechah Dodi).
Stop and consider for a moment the painful irony. Americans have no difficulty singing “G-d Bless America.” Yishmael has no difficulty proclaiming the name of Allah at every opportunity, but we, the nation that stood at Sinai… that heard the voice of G-d, that was given this holy land by Him, have difficulty declaring His Holy Name. Just consider that HaTikvah, the national anthem of Israel reborn, the song in which we express our eternal hope to return to Zion, fails to mention G-d, who gave us Zion – Who gave us our promised land.
The lament of the Prophet Isaiah speaks to us anew: – “An ox knows its keeper, a donkey the hand that feeds it, but Israel does not know My people do not perceive.” How long will this go on? When will we wake up?
We need only seize the moment; we need only cry out to our Heavenly Father. He is waiting for each and every one of us. We dare not sleep. We dare not remain silent!