Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Kislev 5764 - December 17, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
A Force for Light

Uva'avod reshoim rinoh -- There is rejoicing at the destruction of evil ones (Mishlei 11:10). The capture of Saddam Hussein, despotic ruler of Iraq for 35 years, is certainly an occasion for rejoicing.

Saddam's crimes were not mainly against Jews. The few remaining Jewish residents of Iraq were not treated badly during his regime, and his threats to Israel were more an opportunistic attempt to garner Arab acclaim by championing the Palestinian cause than a real goal of his. Even his 39 missiles shot at Israel in the first Gulf War -- which caused only one direct death but extensive property damage -- are nothing compared to what he did to his own people. Estimates of the number of Iraqis murdered in his reign of terror range up to two million. He gassed many thousands to death, arrested and tortured many thousands more and generally ran his country of 24 million as a personal fiefdom, building 28 palaces for himself as well as numerous monuments and public buildings to emphasize his own "greatness."

When someone is drenched in evil on such a massive scale, everyone with any sense of right and wrong must be happy to see him go. With our special concern for moral issues, the Torah community is especially happy to see the capture of one of the arch villains of modern times. This will bring a certain measure of closure to the American conquest of Iraq and will depress the terrorists who attack American forces there -- as well as disappoint the many Palestinians who supported Saddam all the time and were encouraged to see him defy the might of America.

Still, it is only a step in the long war that the Americans have undertaken in Iraq. In its immediate aftermath the terror attacks in Iraq continued, and no one is sure what the long term effects will be.

Though the season of the American success inevitably makes one think of Chanukah, there are few points of comparison. The American conquest of Iraq was certainly no case of "the mighty into the hands of the weak," nor of "the many into the hands of the few." America dominated Iraq from the start.

US President George Bush persistently and correctly put the issues as right against wrong. He is to be commended for this.

Chanukah, however, is not mainly about the downfall of the evil. The focus is more on the first part of the posuk mentioned above: Betuv tzaddikim ta'alotz kiryoh -- when the righteous benefit, the city will be happy.

Chanukah is about the victory of light over darkness; of the dominance of "those who are occupied with Torah" over the "malicious." It is not just physical lights of olive oil or wax that we kindle each night, but the light of Torah that can push away much of the darkness that pervades this world.

The light of Torah is not just for public ceremony. It is not enough to light it in the public places. Each family must light it for itself, in its own home (Ner ish ubeiso). But this is also not our ultimate goal. The light of Torah must be spread; we must kindle it in each and every one (Ner lekol echod ve'echod). Once the kedushoh is established, it must grow (ma'alin bakodesh) and become an ever stronger force in our lives.

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