As I write this column I am returning from the Philippines. Yes, the Philippines! Are there any Jews there? Hashem’s people are scattered throughout the four corners of the world. And now, as we enter the period described as Chevlei Moshiach, the holy flock has to be awakened and gathered.
Rabbi Azaria and his dedicated rebbetzin, Miriam, are leaders of the small community. How strong is Yiddishkeit in Manila? The answer is: as strong as the pintele Yid, a spark embedded in the Yiddishe neshamah. It’s not visible to the naked eye, but if you know how to ignite it, it suddenly becomes a flame, and that is what I experienced in the Philippines.
Even as I write this, I would like to report to our Heavenly Father that, Baruch Hashem, in all my travels, I have never seen the pintele Yid fail to emerge. To prove that it does exist, even when not visible: A man approached me following my speech and related that he is an American career soldier who has been stationed in countries where Jews are considered infidels. He and other Jewish members of the military were given the option of removing the designation “Jew” from their dog tags to protect their lives in case of capture. “Neither I nor any of my fellow soldiers ever considered this an option. Despite our secular, assimilated background, we would never deny our Jewishness. I just thought that you’d be happy to hear this, Rebbetzin,” he concluded.
And I surely was, for it testifies that even the most secular heart, the pintele Yid is very much there. Time and again, I thank Hashem for granting me the zechus of seeing that miracle unfold and Baruch Hashem, the Philippines was no exception.
The power of the pintele Yid never ceases to amaze me. Often well-intentioned people warn me to be careful in what I say. “The audience,” they confide, “is very secular. There is much intermarriage, and no regard for Torah and mitzvos.” I listen and thank them, but have never taken their advice. I speak the emes, which is Torah, from my heart, and Baruch Hashem, I have never seen it fail to awaken every Jewish heart. The secret is all in the pintele Yid that Hashem embedded in all Jewish souls.
I relate this so it might be a merit for our people in this difficult time. Almighty G-d, surely You must see that, despite the forces of assimilation that have eaten away at Your children, they never lost their pintele Yid. So please, Hashem, grant us the opportunity to bring all Your children home without suffering and sacrifice.
The plight of our brethren in Eretz Yisrael is always before me. From the creation of the State, 62 years ago, our people have experienced attack after attack; war after war, and for the past eight years, Southern Israel has had more than 10,000 rockets launched against them. It’s one thing to read or hear this, but it’s something else again to understand what that implies. Try to imagine for a moment that you are a resident in Southern Israel. Nowadays, the rockets are raining down not only on Sderot, but are penetrating deeper into the cities and of Israel, including Ashkelon, Ashdod, Netivot and Beersheva.
Now imagine that you hear, “Tzeva Adom! – Code Red!” You have to run for your life and have 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter. Now imagine that when you hear the alert you are out shopping…and what if your children are not at home? Where do you find them? And what if you are elderly and have difficulty moving – never mind running? What do you do first?
Have you considered that children in these communities cannot play outdoors? In many locations schools are closed, for they simply cannot take a chance. Even older children are afraid to sleep alone and need parental comfort. And there is no end in sight, for the goal of Hamas is to kill Jews and annihilate Israel. Nothing short of that will satisfy them.
For eight years Israeli have seen their neighbors, friends and family maimed and killed. Throughout, Israel exercised restraint and did not react – something no nation on earth would have done. But now that Israel has chosen to defend the lives of her people, almost the entire world has turned against her. Anti-Israel demonstrations are everywhere. It matters little that Israel has made Herculean efforts to protect the lives of Arab civilians, and that Hamas terrorists use these very civilians (including children) as their shields.
Cunningly, they hide in hospitals, schools, and mosques, daring Israel to attack so they can cry “Holocaust! Humanitarian crisis!” The media and nations parrot their accusations and never stop to consider that these thugs are not freedom fighters, but murderers who worship death, who believe that killing Jews is their god-given command and if, in the process, their own families are killed, so much the better. They died a martyr’s death, gained world sympathy for their cause, and further incited abhorrence for Jews and Israel.
It defies imagination that all these “do-gooders” have not questioned the hypocrisy of Hamas terrorists who were given billions of dollars in aid to build an infrastructure, in which her citizens might live, thrive and create a viable Palestinian state. No one asks where those billions have gone. No one has thought to ask Hamas, ostensibly so concerned for the welfare of her people, why it used these funds to purchase lethal weapons and dig tunnels through which to smuggle them.
The Israeli government uprooted its own citizens from their land so that there might be a Palestinian homeland. Israel left behind the magnificent greenhouses it had created in the heart of the desert, which could have provided a livelihood for the Arabs, but Hamas chose to destroy it all, and replaced it with launching pads for terror. It is in the interest of Hamas to keep the Palestinians living in squalor so that they may tug at the heartstrings of the nations and justify their deadly attacks on Israel and the Jewish people.
World hatred of Israel and the Jews is difficult to comprehend. Israel created the only democracy in a region where, for centuries, oppressive dictatorships have held sway. Moreover, there is no nation that did not encounter the savage barbaric hand of Islamic extremists. To one extent or another every nation has had its 9/11. So how could these so-called freedom-loving people align themselves with these savage terrorists?
In addition to the age-old answer of anti-Semitism, 21st -century man has another reason to condemn Israel and label her a Nazi state. Although they would never admit to it, contemporary man is plagued by guilt for the Holocaust. How could an enlightened, civilized world have perpetrated such satanic evil, and how could democratic nations have countenanced it?
There are no good answers to these questions so Jews have become a source of embarrassment. By their very existence, they point an accusatory finger at the nations, so they are more than happy to absolve themselves of guilt by accusing Israel of Nazi tactics. And then there are the liberal leftists, who believe it is politically correct to support any terrorist group so long as it appears to be the underdog
So once again Israel finds herself alone. But that should imbue us with strength, for what we are witnessing is so irrational, so senseless, that it can only be explained as the Hand of G-d. Something unprecedented is happening in the world. If you know Prophets, you will realize that what is occurring was foretold thousands of years ago, “It is a time of travail and suffering for Israel, but from that very suffering shall emerge her salvation.”
As I write these words, it is Parshas Vayechi. The patriarch Jacob on his deathbed gathers his children to tell them that which would occur in the pre-Messianic period: “Assemble yourselves and I will tell you that which will happen in the end of days. Gather yourselves, sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel, your father” (Genesis 49:1). But strangely enough, Jacob does not make the revelation, and our sages explain that Jacob went blank – Hashem took away his Ruach HaKodesh and thereby prevented him from relating that which would happen. Why?
Could it be that Jacob did tell us what would happen in the pre-Messianic period – that G-d would be calling, but that we would be blank and not perceive His message? Since 9/11, we have had one wake-up call after another, from natural to economic disasters, and now, we are in yet another crisis. All our icons are collapsing so that we, the Jewish people, might come to the realization that “There is no one but G-d.” Our wake-up calls come, but we are blank – we do not understand. We have yet to hear the call of G-d and turn to Him.
The terrible suffering that has been predicted for this period is unfolding before our eyes – but alas, we do not hear His voice. We do not consider or comprehend. In his blessing, our father Jacob gave us an antidote through which we can protect ourselves during these difficult times: “Gather yourselves and be one – unify as one. Cease your bickering and turn to G-d and His Torah for that is the key to your redemption.” It is all summed up in the Talmud through a three-fold formula, and B’Ezrat Hashem, in my next column I will outline what exactly that means.