Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Cheshvan 5760 - October 20, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
The Primary Phase

by L. Jungerman

In the heat of the argument over the peace agreements and their nature, it is necessary to have some format whereby we can present the matter through the eyes of a Torah public. The faithful may not be well versed in the clauses of the agreement and the percentages of concessions and their stages but, on the other hand, they are certainly familiar, more than the average, with the figure who is the partner, the other side, in the negotiations, for war or peace. They possess the certificate given by the eternal Torah, "And he shall be a wild, barbaric man . . . " And this should be the starting point of our relationship.

When certain factions declare that compromise is desirable for the sake of peace, we assert, "Nurse no illusions!" `And he shall be a wild man.' When others shout that they should be taught a lesson or two, that we should react and retaliate, we counterbalance it with a warning, "Danger. Beware!" `And he shall be a wild man . . . '"

Everyone agrees that everyone else is at a loss for what to do. Whatever they decide to do, they're taking a risk. Nothing is certain. Still, both sides quote chapter and verse to uphold their particular position, pro or con, when the explicit truth is there for all to see in this very parsha. "And he shall be a wild man." That is why we do not raise our own voice with the hawks or the doves, the illusionaries or the disillusionaries.

As far as we are concerned, it is just another chapter in the history of our relationship towards the uncivilized threat of this savage. We put faith in his word like we would put faith in the word of an aborigine or a savage.


Instead of focusing on the whip, the true challenge is to deal with the hand holding the whip. Theirs is a nation that from its inception, was destined to serve as the whirling thong swinging around our heads, accelerated to strike.

The words of the Ramban should be familiar: "And Hashem heard (Hagar's) affliction and He gave her a son who would be a savage to brutally harass the seed of Avrohom and Soro in all manner of persecution."

From the moment he was born, Yishmoel was destined to oppress the blessed seed of Avrohom Ovinu. Thus we see that it is not a battle of this strategy or that tactic; it is an ideological reality of conflict.

And while every measure of persecution and suffering has a general purpose, to rouse us to repent, the oppression we are subject to under Yishmoel is different, as it is anchored in the very fact of his savageness. This is better explained through the Midrash brought in Pirkei deR' Eliezer (chapter 32) where it is written, "And why was he called Yishmoel? Because in the future, Hashem would harken to the cry of the nation suffering under the yoke of Yishmoel's persecution, as it is written, `Keil will hear and will answer them.'"

A person's name generally expresses his essence and destiny in the world. Chazal say that Yishmoel was given this name because he was destined to oppress Jewry and cause them to cry out to Hashem in pain, for help. This seems puzzling: Why this name? It seems so much more fitting for the Jews than for the Arabs since it is the former's voice that Hashem will heed. On the contrary, it is the Yishmaelites who will instigate and evoke the cry. Why, then, was this particular name chosen to describe them and their function?

Precisely because of this. Chazal, in scanning the annals of history and studying the role of the Yishmaelites in relationship to the Jews, determined that their characteristic is that they were chosen to cause Jews to cry out to Hashem and to make Hashem heed their pleas. The Arabs are a loudspeaker, a voice amplifier, if you will, of the "voice of Yaakov."

This is a documented fact. Thus, instead of wrestling with the whip or the stick, instead of getting worked up over every single terrorist incident, the Jewish reaction should be an amplification of "the voice is the voice of Yaakov." If some terrorist act did take place, G-d forbid, it was meant to be. Not the effect, but the cause, the instigator. He was born to this role. His grandfather was born into this destiny, for this purpose. The name says all. Yishmoel. They are intended to cause Hashem to harken and to answer their cry.

So it is that the lessons which the faithful must derive from political events are not to be found in the diplomatic arena.

Preparedness to foil terrorist activities, G-d forbid, beyond efforts of prevention and contention, are to be found in the houses of worship and study. There is the place to preempt with the voice so that there will be no need for the barbaric Yishmoel's `help.' That's where we need to phase in, to arouse the heart to a higher level, a second and third stage, so to speak.

It is difficult, very much so, but we must take heart and remember what the Rambam wrote in his "Letter to Yemen" when he, too, had to contend with the Islamic barbarians:

"And you, our brothers, know that Hashem has set us apart through afflictions due to our sins, and placed us in the midst of the Yishmaelites, whose evil hand oppresses us exceedingly and who are wily in doing us harm and despising us . . . And thus we suffer in their bondage and are subject to their lies and deceptions beyond our ability -- or anyone's, as well -- to bear.

Our Sages have proved to us that we can bear Yishmoel's deceptions and keep silent. They derived it from the homiletic interpretation of the verse, `UMishmo veDumo UMasso' (Bereishis 25,14), which lists the sons of Yishmoel but as words, alludes to `Listen, keep silent and bear.' So long as we sue for peace with them, they pursue us in war and hatred.

Hashem, in His kindness, shall remove the darkness from our eyes and darken through His wrath all those who rise up against us, just as He promised us that `Lo, the darkness shall cover the earth and mist the nations, but upon you shall Hashem shine and His glory shall be upon you'."

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