by Rabbi Mordecai Plaut based on a shiur of a
rosh yeshiva in Yerushalayim
Chazal Tell Us How to Overcome Yishmoel
With the threats faced by those living in the Middle East,
and around the world, from those of Arab extraction, the
following penetrating analysis sheds light on important
characteristics of the struggle with Yishmoel as described by
Chazal. This is not to suggest that every Arab is as detailed
here, but that the essential features of the contest are as
explained, and the steps we must take -- which are matters of
our personal and private avodoh -- are as outlined
The following is based on a tape of a shiur that
was delivered more than six years ago.
In Pirkei Derabbi Eliezer (32) it says that six people
were named before they were born. One of these is Yishmoel,
based on the posuk, " . . . and you should call his
name `Yishmoel' " (Bereishis 16:11).
"And why was he named `Yishmoel'? Because in the future
Hakodosh Boruch Hu will hear the voice of the keening
(na'akas) of the [Jewish] people, from that which the
children of Yishmoel will do [to them]. That is why he was
called `Yishmoel,' so as to say, "Keil will hear and
will answer them (Tehillim 55:20).' "
That son of Avrohom is named "Yishmoel" because he will bring
the Jewish people to a level of distress so serious that the
Creator of the world will hear their voices. Even before
Yishmoel was born, it was known that Hashem will hear the
keening of our people, the Jewish people, as a result of what
the children of Yishmoel will do then.
We say in the Shemoneh Esrei three times a day, in the
brochoh Shomei'a Tefilloh, that Hashem hears our
prayers. There is a basic middoh through which Hashem
hears tefilloh, that is always in operation. It is
essential to our continued existence that He hear our
Since Hashem always hears our prayers, why does it mention
specially that Hashem will hear the prayers of the Jewish
people -- our prayers -- in the context of what Yishmoel does
The reason for this special mention is that this regular,
constant middoh of Shomei'a Tefilloh is not
sufficient in the conflict with Yishmoel. There is a need of
a special shemi'oh, a special receptivity to prayer,
that is not present throughout the generations. This special
middoh is called "Yishma Keil" and it is a new
type of hearing on the part of Hashem that must be
established "at the end of days," to hear our keening in
response to the attacks of Yishmoel.
What Yishmoel will do to us is not extraneous, but an
essential part of him. It is part of his name and his name
refers to his essence. Within Yishmoel, and intrinsic to him,
is a power that will cause Hashem to hear the keening of our
people at the end of days.
So there are two points that we note at this time: 1] a
special middoh of hearing, on the part of Hashem, of
our prayers in response to Yishmoel, and also 2] that what
Yishmoel does to us, comes from his essence.
It says that at the end of the prophecy of Bilaam: ". . . Oy!
Who can live from he in whom is put Keil? (Oy! Mi
yichyeh misumo Keil.) (Bamidbar 24:22)"
Commenting on this posuk, Pirkei Derabbi Eliezer (30)
says: Bilaam said: "Hashem put His Name in Yisroel
[whose name includes `Keil' which is the Name of
Hashem]. And since Hashem made the name of Yishmoel
equivalent to the name Yisroel, Oy! who will live in his
days. Of this was said the posuk, `Oy! Who can live
from he in whom is put Keil?' "
The Radal explains that Hashem Himself, as it were, called
both Yisroel (in the posuk, " . . . and He called his
name Yisroel (Bereishis 35:10)") and also Yishmoel,
through the agency of the Mal'ach Hashem
(Bereishis 16:11). Thus Hashem Himself, as it were,
made the names in this sense equivalent.
In the case of Yishmoel, it portends suffering. Who can stand
up to this people whose name includes the name of Hashem? Who
can survive? Who can withstand his oppression?
In response to what Yishmoel does, the Torah says: "Oy." This
is a word that has no meaning; it is simply an exclamation, a
pure expression of shock. This shock is the response of the
Torah to the fact that the name of Hashem appears in
Yishmoel's name and what that appearance implies, as we will
Talkers and Doers
The Gra in Aderes Eliyohu on parshas Zos
Habrochoh says that Eisov's name is related to
asiyoh -- action. Yishmoel's name is related to
hearing, meaning speech. The Gra mentions this in relation to
the posuk, "Hashem came from Sei'ir and appeared from
Mount Poron . . . (Devorim 33:2).
What, ask Chazal, was Hashem doing in Sei'ir and in Poron?
Hashem went there on his rounds to offer the Torah to all the
nations of the world and they did not accept it, until Hashem
came to Klal Yisroel who accepted it. All the 70 nations are
represented here by their two heads: Sei'ir (Eisov) and Poron
(Yishmoel). These two each head a group of 35 nations. Eisov
is the head of one group and Yishmoel is the head of the
other. They are 70 nations plus two heads.
In the selichos of Sheini Tinyono we pray:
Kallei Sei'ir vechosno -- destroy Sei'ir and his
father- in-law. This refers to Eisov and Yishmoel since Eisov
married Mocholas, the daughter of Yishmoel. We pray that
Hashem should destroy both Eisov and his father-in-law
There are two major groups, one headed by Eisov whose name
refers to action and another headed by Yishmoel whose name
refers to speech. One group talks and the other acts.
The energies of one group are primarily directed towards
action. They are not interested much in talking; they want to
do, to get things done. The perverted application of this
urge expresses itself in murder, the ultimate act. When not
properly controlled and disciplined, members of this group
end up as murderers. This is evident from the reason that the
midrash gives that Eisov rejected the Torah: It says
`Thou shall not murder.'
The other group likes to talk. All their energy is directed
towards talking and discussion. They give long, flowery
speeches. They are dreamers. The excessive perversion of this
preference is loose morals and arayos violations.
Again this is evident from the reason that Yishmoel rejected
the Torah: It says `Thou shall not commit adultery.'
These are the two broad groups. Some like to talk and others
like to act.
Yishmoel is clearly connected to those whose interest is
speech. His name, which includes "hearing," is very strong
evidence. They are not so quick to do anything, but they can
talk for hours. All the Yishmoel leaders give long
Usually throughout the last golus, the threat and
attacks have come from Eisov. We know that our kol
Yaakov is effective against the hands of Eisov. Wherever
our opposition is the hands of Eisov, our kol Yaakov
can overcome them and emerge victorious.
However Yishmoel himself has a strong connection to speech.
All his descendants are intimately and integrally connected
to speech, and we can expect that they will use their power
of speech against us. If they are our opposition, we must
find something special, something outstanding, something
overpowering, that can overcome the speech efforts of
Yishmoel. It even says in the posuk (Bereishis 21:17)
that Hashem heard the voice of the youth, referring to
Yishmoel. This shows conclusively that Yishmoel is deeply
related to speech and that his speech is effective in
Against this, something very special is needed. This special
thing is what is noted here in the medrash: Yishma Keil
veya'aneim (Tehillim 55:20). It is a special
middoh of Hashem listening to our tefilloh
since Yishmoel's being, that which we are up against, is
bound up itself with speech and tefilloh. The regular
middoh of Hashem hearing our prayer, and our regular
kol Yaakov, are not enough, since Yishmoel is himself
already present at that level.
Against our will, we find ourselves involved in this
sugya in our daily lives these days. Chazal reveal
that this part of the golus is especially difficult.
The part that is related to this nation is particularly
difficult. There is a special keening that comes from us and
there is a special hearing on the part of Hashem. All these
unique forces indicate the unusual difficulty of these
We must understand this period and we must know how to
prepare to marshal the special powers that we need at this
It is usually not advisable to speak about these matters and
certainly, in normal times, discretion is the most
appropriate course. However these are not normal times and
therefore there is a pressing need.
End of Part I of IV
All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.