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3 Tammuz 5762 - June 13, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Task of Malchus Yishmoel

by Rav Yisroel Lorberbaum

There are two ways of looking at what has been happening in Eretz Yisroel lately. One is to observe and examine everything that transpires from a political, social and security standpoint: which moves should have been made in the past and which steps ought to be taken in the future to ameliorate the situation. The problem is that such a perspective, which evaluates all events bederech hateva and disregards Hashgocho protis, borders on kefiroh. Engaging in political discourse dampens emunoh. " . . . Voicing their opinion, saying so-and- so will happen or so-and-so will do this or that, is truly kefiroh," says the Shomer Emunim. "For those who believe that Hashem is responsible for turning events and fills all the worlds and oversees all . . . of what relevance is it to say: if so-and-so happens it will mean so-and-so and this will bring about peace and the nations will do this or that? Through these words they uproot themselves from emunas Hashem Yisborach (Maamar Ho'emunoh Chap. 2).

The other possibility is to examine all events as part of the Creator's hashgocho protis over Am Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel. HaRav Elchonon Wasserman says every event that takes place in the world is intended exclusively for Yisroel (Koveitz Maamorim, Zechor Yemos Olom).

The problem with this is that we are unable to comprehend with any certainty the meaning of a certain event, how Hashem Yisborach uses it to lead humanity to its purpose and how HaKodosh Boruch Hu guides Creation. Although everything written below is in the realm of "maybe" or "possibly," these speculations avoid a view of events divorced from hashgocho protis.

Ikveso DeMeshicho

According to HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzatto, Hashem governs His world constantly in two modes: a) Hanhogas hamishpot -- HaKodosh Boruch Hu rules mankind based on human deeds, i.e. reward and punishment, with dozens of complex rules including midoh keneged midoh, arichus apayim, kaporoh through yissurim, and many more; b) Hanhogas hayichud -- Hashem Yisborach leads humanity along a fixed course toward a final purpose, namely, the revelation of His oneness and uniqueness, meaning all of Creation will recognize the Creator's existence and unity. This mode is totally independent of hanhogas hamishpot, i.e. human deeds. Therefore, through it Creation will eventually reach its purpose in any case (Daas Tevuno).

At all times both modes, hayichud and hamishpot, operate in tandem: Hashem leads Creation towards a fixed goal, while ruling over mankind based on reward and punishment. Yet "at the end of the golus, HaKodosh Boruch Hu, uses this one [hanhogas hayichud] predominantly, in order to do a tikkun keloli of the entire world and therefore Hanhogas hayichud must be employed, for out of the great oblivion [that can be present when hanhogas hayichud is dominant], the great revelation will be born, and the world will be whole (ibid., Klolim Rishonim, 35).

In those circumstances, it will appear as if there is no reward and punishment chas vesholom, but the real plan is to teach us that there is a time when our Master does not rule the world with the mode of reward and punishment, but through hanhogas hayichud instead . . . and it should not be difficult for us [to see it] if tzadikim are greatly humiliated and people cry out and go unanswered and all of the other unfavorable signs Chazal spoke of" (Daas Tevunos, 170).

Golus Edom

Despite the great hardships we are suffering at the hands of the Arabs, i.e. Malchus Yishmoel, we must keep in mind that we are in Golus Edom, the last golus, which will continue until the arrival of Moshiach, as explained by Chazal in many places (see Bereishis Rabboh Chap. 44; Vayikro Rabboh Chap. 29).

According to Rav Eliyohu Dessler, "Malchus Edom is characterized by pride and heresy derived from notions of `kochi ve'otzem yodi' and `ani ve'afsi ode' . . . The Romans stood materialism against spirituality. They fostered the spirit of the power of material might as if they could harness the entire world for their own material benefit and use.

"Since the destruction of the Temple, the power and pride of the Fourth Kingdom have grown . . . Hester and darkness are increasing and material world-views are taking over, casting a shadow on ruchniyus. Science is advancing from generation to generation, bringing opportunities to make use of this world for human benefit. This causes human pride to increase, as if everything were in the power of mankind and nothing is impossible for it. Heretical world-views stressing the superiority of man's power inundate the entire world . . . This is the essence of the golus of the Fourth Kingdom and therefore we must be aware that this is the challenge Yisroel must overcome during this golus (Michtav MeEliahu, III pp. 216-17).

The challenge of Golus Edom will be particularly acute in Eretz Yisroel, writes Rav Dessler. "This is the nisoyon that has been placed on Am Yisroel during Ikveso DeMeshicho. Hashem Yisborach is returning many Jews to Eretz Yisroel and they rule there. The porkei ol Hatorah have grown proud as if they caused all this to happen through their own might, and the more their pride burgeons, the more their haughtiness and their will to impose their apikorsus increases" (ibid., p. 218). Therefore, he concludes, our challenge is to stand firm against these materialistic views and against false impressions of "kochi ve'otzem yodi" and to strengthen ourselves in emunoh and in avodas Hashem.

Malchus Yishmoel

Since we are in Golus Edom, we must clarify the task of Malchus Yishmoel during the Ikveso DeMeshicho at the end of Golus and the meaning behind the calamities we and the entire world are suffering at the hands of the Yishmaelite Kingdom. The Maharal and Pachad Yitzchok explain why Malchus Yishmoel was not among the four kingdoms (i.e. goluyos) mentioned in Doniel: "The four kingdoms received their power as the result of the fall of Yisroel [according to the historical pattern of] one nation falls and the next rises. Therefore when the people of Yisroel sinned and descended from their spiritual elevation, they fell into the hands of each of the kingdoms and were enslaved. However Yishmoel does not receive its power through the fall of Yisroel, but has a special power from Hashem Yisborach Himself in the merit of their descent from Avrohom Ovinu. `And as for Yishmoel I have heard thee. Behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly . . . ' says the Torah (Bereishis 17:20), and this power allows them to overcome and oppose Am Yisroel."

Yishmoel's Task

I heard the following explanations of Yishmoel's appointed task from one of our generation's leading talmidei chachomim in the field of Jewish thought: The Torah says Avrohom Ovinu asked HaKadosh Boruch Hu, "Lu Yishmoel yichye lefonecho" (Bereishis 17:18). This raises the question: how could Hashem's pledge to Avrohom Ovinu to establish his offspring, to continue in his path of emunoh, be applied to Yishmoel?

The answer lies in the bris miloh Yishmoel performed.

Bris miloh has two principle functions: removal of the orloh which implies detachment from gashmiyus, and a connection with Hashem through the covenant of miloh.

(Bris miloh also includes all of the other 612 mitzvos and therefore it can be viewed as including both a mitzvos asei and a mitzvos lo saasei. The root of all mitzvos asei is Onochi Hashem Elokecho--a connection with Hashem Yisborach, which is one part of bris miloh--and the root of the mitzvos lo saasei is lo yihiyeh lecho--a separation from all avodoh zora, which is the second part of bris miloh.)

Although Yishmoel performed bris miloh, it lacked the essence and he was left with just the lower foundation of the bris, the removal of gashmiyus and the separation from all avodoh zora.

HaKadosh Boruch Hu's promise to Avrohom Ovinu to establish descendants who will continue his path was realized in Yishmoel, since Yishmoel is also a means of conveying the message of separating from avodoh zora to the nations of the world. However, Yishmoel is called a "pere odom" (Bereishis 16:11-14). It is as an "odom" that he distances himself from avodoh zora, but he does so in a wild, uncivilized manner. (See Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch's commentary, which explains that Yishmoel inherited midas emunoh from Avrohom Ovinu and midos pere, i.e. a lack of restraint, from Hagar. Thus throughout history the Yishmoelim wage war without limits or inhibition to further the spread of emunoh.)

Yishmoel also has a task to perform in Eretz Yisroel. According to the Zohar Hakodosh (end of Parshas Vayeiro), "Bnei Yishmoel are destined to control the Holy Land for an extended period when it is empty and lacks shleimus, just as their miloh is empty and lacks shleimus. They will prevent Bnei Yisroel from returning to their place until Bnei Yishmoel will be compensated for their merit."

As we will see below, the task of the Yishmoelim is to maintain a hold on Eretz Yisroel for an extended period in order to prevent all of the other kingdoms from conquering it and filling it with avodoh zora. This applies in particular to Malchus Edom, which is the kingdom currently dominant, the kingdom under which we are subjugated in the present golus.

So, the task of Yishmoel in the world is to stamp out avodoh zora and their task in Eretz Yisroel is to prevent Edom from conquering it and filling it with avodoh zora.

Understanding the Current Period

Edom disseminates hashkofos of control over gashmiyus: materialism and false notions of "kochi ve'otzem yodi." These hashkofos hold sway in Eretz Yisroel through porkei ol Torah and in the rest of the world as well, representing the avodoh zora of our age (see passage in Michtav MeEliahu quoted above).

According to Rav Dessler, Edom's churban will take place only through the churban of this world. "When HaKodosh Boruch Hu brings the world to a state in which the foundations of life in This World collapse -- peace of mind will be undermined, individual lives will be full of worry, fear and suffering, and the whole world will stand in fear of havoc and destruction -- then it will become apparent to all that man's vanity and pride about his progress and supposed conquest of the material world only lead to oblivion . . . When man loses hope of achieving his wants and desires, then the light of Moshiach will be revealed and the fall and destruction of Malchus Edom will be plain for all to see . . . For only by achieving bitul and [recognizing the] insignificance of This World is humanity capable of rising up to see from a spiritual perspective; [and thereby] to abolish Malchus Edom and then the light of Moshiach will be revealed" (Michtav MeEliahu III p. 205).

It seems that today this is precisely what Malchus Yishmoel is doing. The Yishmoelim have undermined the peace of mind of the materialistic life, have induced a worldwide state of fear of havoc and destruction, and have upset the false perceptions of kochi ve'otzem yodi in the world, especially in Eretz Yisroel. Malchus Yishmoel is distancing the world from the avodoh zora of Malchus Edom.

This appears to be more than a temporary trend: various observers say that the world is heading toward a sharp polarization -- modern, Western culture versus traditional and conservative Arab culture -- and that a collision between these two powers is inevitable.

(In fact the War of Gog Umogog is described as a war between Edom and Yishmoel "because their beliefs are divergent" [Malbim, Yechezkel 32:17].) As bin Laden said, "Americanization pollutes the Islamic home" (quoted in Thomas Friedman's Luxury and the Olive Tree).)

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