A Fight Like No Other
On Tuesday, we stood together with three-hundred thousand supporters of Israel is Washington. To date, that is the largest pro-Israel rally in history. In the past five weeks everything seems larger.
Something has changed. Something feels different this time.
This is not just another war. It's not another incursion into Gaza. And the response of our enemies around the world isn't simply anti-semitism. It's vicious, egregious and unabashed. Somehow, this all feels bigger; far more significant.
Chazal describe the war(s) of Gog U'Magog as the “bite of a snake”. On this, Rav Kook writes:
Anytime that the nations of the world have risen against us, they have been driven by some type of personal gain. Sometimes to take that which is ours, sometimes from jealousy. Sometimes as a result of feeling threatened by our spiritual growth. But the war of Gog U'Magog will be waged against us with no purpose other than the desire to perpetrate evil and to destroy... At that time there will be nothing to gain from waging war. We will already be settled in our land, seeking peace with all of our neighbors. All that will be left will be a hateful desire to do evil and a jealously of the Honor of Hashem, through the honor of the Jewish people.
To that end, this final war is like that of a snake. A lion and a wolf attack and kill in order to eat, but a snake bites with no personal gain. This is a most dangerous enemy, but it will be that davka from this terror, that the true salvation of Klal Yisrael will emerge. To make the name of Hashem greater in the world.
Is this the war to end all wars? Is this Gog U'magog? We have no way of knowing; Hashem's plans are always hidden from us until He chooses to reveal them. But make no mistake – this war is most certainly different from all other wars that Israel has fought. And the brutality of our enemies is unlike anything we have seen in decades, or perhaps centuries.
Our holy Chayalim have descended into the hell of Gaza to destroy the snake whose only goal is to hurt us. They are risking their lives to rescue 240+ of our brothers and sisters who are being held captive by an enemy that glorifies pain and death.
But hidden beneath these explicit military goals there is a new mission. A mission which we have not experienced on this scale since the days of Bar Kochva. For the first time in almost two thousand years, Klal Yisrael has mobilized to defend Jewish pride; גאון יעקב – The Honor of the Nation of Hashem.
There was once a time that Yaakov Avinu had to dress and pretend, he had to steal the Brachos, and then flee in fear from the murderous wrath of his brother Esav. But Chazal tell us that there will be a time in the future when Klal Yisrael will not hide in cowardice and fear; a time when we fight not just for freedom, not simply in self defense. We will fight for Jewish honor.
In the words of Shimon and Levi who went to war against the city of Sh'chem to avenge the rape and kidnapping of Dina: “They cannot be allowed to do this to our sister.”
The State of Israel was founded as a safe haven for the Jews of the Exile. We, the persecuted victims who endured two millennia of murder, crucifixion, abuse, torture and rape would finally return home; a place to call our own once more. An ancient homeland where we could defend ourselves and our futures, a place where we would be free from the pogroms and hatred.
On Simchas Torah 5784, those dreams were shattered. For the first time, this is no longer our mission.
This war is not an about self defense. Two weeks ago, myself, along with forty Rabbinic from the OU went to Sderot to see the destruction and to meet with the Mayor of that broken city. At the end of our conversation, we asked him what the next steps were for his town:
“We have the best missile defense system in the world. We have shelters, sirens and the iron dome. But when 45 of our residents town are murdered in broad daylight in the streets of our town, we are done playing defense. We don't want to defend anymore. We want to ensure that they will never attack us again.”
It's the same feeling we felt on on Tuesday, some three-hundred thousand people – Jews and non Jews – standing at the national mall and declaring “We are not afraid.”
The Talmud (ברכות יז א) relates the various tefillos that Tanaim and Amoraim would say at the end of davening:
ר' אלכסנדרי בתר דמצלי אמר הכי רבון העולמים גלוי וידוע לפניך שרצוננו לעשות רצונך ומי מעכב שאור שבעיסה ושעבוד מלכיות יהי רצון מלפניך שתצילנו מידם ונשוב לעשות חוקי רצונך בלבב שלם.
Master of the Universe, it is revealed and known before You that our will is to perform Your will, and what prevents us? On the one hand, the yeast in the dough, the evil inclination that is within every person; and the subjugation to the kingdoms on the other. May it be Your will that You will deliver us from their hands, of both the evil inclination and the foreign kingdoms, so that we may return to perform the edicts of Your will with a perfect heart.
The Maharsha explains that these two challenges, the yeast in the dough, our Yetzer Hara, and the pressures from the nations of world are two sides of the same coin.
The reason for our failure as Jews is due to a misalignment of our senses of pride. The Yetzer Hara deludes us into thinking that we can rebel against Hashem, but the nations of the world delude us into thinking that being a Jew means being a victim: שאין מניחין לישראל להתגאות אבל משפילים אותם בתכלית השפלות – “They do not allow us to be proud Jews. Instead they utterly humiliate us.”
Our Tefillah, and indeed our Avoda, is to flip the script. Through the heartbreak, the pain and the sorrow, Klal Yisrael is rising up to declare that we will be humiliated no longer. We do not need to pretend in order to be worthy of Bracha. We don't need to hide from the Esavs of the world in order to survive.
It is time we claim our birthright, the final Bracha that Yizchak gave Yaakov Avinu:
וְיִתֶּן־לְךָ אֶת־בִּרְכַּת אַבְרָהָם לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אִתָּךְ לְרִשְׁתְּךָ אֶת־אֶרֶץ מְגֻרֶיךָ
Hashem should give you the Bracha of Avraham, to you and your descendants to inherit this Land.