After three weeks of heavy fighting, during which the Israeli Defense Forces inflicted heavy losses upon the Hamas terrorrist infrastructure, Israel and in turn, Hamas, declared unilateral ceasefires. On the one hand, the Israeli offensive has been phenomenally impressive, showing how much the IDF and the political leadership have learned from the Second Lebanon War, which was widely considered a failure, even as it did teach Hizbollah not to mess any more with Israel.
However, even today, a few days into the ceasefire, the media report that smuggling tunnels are again in operation. Even now, there is a feeling that the “Cast Lead” military campaign ended inconclusively; Hamas, while very much weakened, is still committed to terrorism (see the concluding paragraph).
So, Israel has come out better than after the Second Lebanon War, but things are still murky.
In retrospect, some words I wrote in the aftermath of the earlier war – in a sermon entitled “Now You Shall See” – seem somewhat prescient, and hence reassuring regarding the future. After rereading those words, I think that it is appropriate to affirm that, despite the lingering lack of clarity, there will be even more light at the end of this tunnel.
Now Shalt Thou See – by Rabbi Arie Folger
originally presented at the
Israelitische Gemeinde Basel
on 27th of Tevet 5768 (5th of January ’08)
The Torah teaches:
וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י ה’ לֹ֥א נֹודַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם׃
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as E-l Shad-dai (G”d-Almighty), but by My name haShem I made Me not known to them. (Shemot 6:3)
Moshe is obviously being compared to the patriarchs, but is he being favourably compared, or not?
The Midrash offer two interpretations. On the one hand, says the Midrash, the above verse is a lament. G”d recounts, how He had repeatedly appeared to the Patriarchs and promised them the Land of Milk and Honey, and assured them that their descendents will be sovereign in the land. And yet, the Patriarchs knew many setbacks, but, they never complained, they accepted G”d’s challenges and rose to meet them. In fact, the patriarchs never asked such strange question as “What is Thy Name?” (Shemot 3:13), only Moshe did. Furthermore, as soon as Pharaoh once refused to release the People of Israel, and understandably takes administrative measures to prevent their budding freedom aspirations, Moshe reports to God saying, quite brazenly,
וַיָּ֧שָׁב מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶל־ה’ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲ־דֹנָ֗י לָמָ֤ה הֲרֵעֹ֙תָה֙ לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה שְׁלַחְתָּֽנִי׃ וּמֵאָ֞ז בָּ֤אתִי אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר בִּשְׁמֶ֔ךָ הֵרַ֖ע לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה וְהַצֵּ֥ל לֹא־הִצַּ֖לְתָּ אֶת־עַמֶּֽךָ׃
And Moses returned unto haShem, and said: ‘Lord, wherefore hast Thou dealt ill with this people? why is it that Thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he hath dealt ill with this people; neither hast Thou delivered Thy people at all.’ (Shemot 5:22-23)
Unlike the Patriarchs, who truly trusted in G”d, Moshe questioned Him. For that, Moshe was censured. When G”d told him:
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה֙’ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה עַתָּ֣ה תִרְאֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֖ה לְפַרְעֹ֑ה כִּ֣י בְיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ יְשַׁלְּחֵ֔ם וּבְיָ֣ד חֲזָקָ֔ה יְגָרְשֵׁ֖ם מֵאַרְצֹֽו׃
And haSchem said unto Moses: ‘Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh; for by a strong hand shall he let them go, and by a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.’ (Shemot 6:1)
That, explains the Midrash, is the censure: you shall see My victory over Pharao, but not the one over the thirty one rulers of Kana’an. G”d decreed already then that Moshe shall not enter the Land of Israel.
What was Moshe’s mistake? It seems that he expected יְשׁוּעַת ה’ כְּהֶרֶף עַיִּן “G”d’s redemption comes in the bat of an eyelash.” Perhaps Moshe thought that, having been sent to request the Children of Israel’s release, Pharao would immediately recognize G”d and comply. However, כִּ֣י לֹ֤א מַחְשְׁבֹותַי֙ מַחְשְׁבֹ֣ותֵיכֶ֔ם וְלֹ֥א דַרְכֵיכֶ֖ם דְּרָכָ֑י … – For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways… (Yesha’yahu 54:8)
To trust in G”d means to also accept that G”d has His ways, which we often fail to understand. Nonetheless, He shall realize His Promise. Moshe saw his brethren’s – our ancestors’ – suffering, as the leader of our people should. However, he possibly also failed to understand that even exile had a purpose. It is in the Egyptian exile that we morphed from the family of Israel into the People of Israel. The suffering of Egypt foreshadowed the numerous exiles that we experienced, and that none of these exiles would destroy us, none of these would signify a cessation of the Covenant. On the contrary, the Covenant is eternal, unchanging, and has given us the strength to survive in the most adverse circumstances.
The Midrash also suggests a second explanation, favourable to Moshe. While G”d promised the Patriarchs that their descendants will inherit the Land, and while He did forge a covenant with the Patriarchs, that was always expressed with the Divine name E-l Shad-dai, “the One who can”, expressing G”d’s unarticulated Omnipotence, G”d-who keeps the world’s powers in check. Now, however, has the time come for the Covenant to be expressed, for the very first time, in terms of the Ineffable Name, the Tetragrammaton, for “you Moshe, shall now see” how G”d released His People from the clutches of Egypt.
Trust in G”d may take different forms according to the circumstances. Sometimes, we must simply trust G”d and remain faithful to Him, but at other, historic moments, G”d reveals Himself to those who seek Him, and the covenant is expressed with the Ineffable Name. Now we see!
As the suffering of the Egyptian exile increased and its end came near, our ancestors became extraordinarily fruitful. After having given up hope, they once again got married, formed families, and continued living despite the Egyptians best efforts to make them lose all strength.
This resilience is typical of our People, this is our very nature. Less than one and a half years ago, well organized terrorists terrorized Northern Israel. While the IDF troops morale was high, many mistakes were made in the war, mistakes that the political and military leadership of Israel will hopefully learn from and avoid in the future. However, besides the superior morality the Jewish army showed during that war, our people responded in other ways, too. Out of the suffering of Egypt arose families, greatly increasing the Jewish people, so too, out of the ashes of destruction brought about by the Hezbollah thugs, arose families who trust in G”d’s protection and increase our people. More children have been born in Tzefat in the past year than ever before,1 and the pattern is repeated elsewhere, even in the Diaspora. While the Diaspora Jewish population is still shrinking, the younger families are ever more fruitful – and their children are disproportionately being Jewishly well-educated. In the words that we recite daily:
אֵ֣לֶּה בָ֭רֶכֶב וְאֵ֣לֶּה בַסּוּסִ֑ים וַאֲנַ֓חְנוּ ׀ בְּשֵׁם־ה’ אֱ־לֹהֵ֣ינוּ נַזְכִּֽיר׃ הֵ֭מָּה כָּרְע֣וּ וְנָפָ֑לוּ וַאֲנַ֥חְנוּ קַּ֝֗מְנוּ וַנִּתְעֹודָֽד׃
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will make mention of the name of haShem our G”d-Almighty. They are bowed down and fallen; but we are risen, and stand upright. (Tehillim 20)
As G”d said to Moshe:
עַתָּ֣ה תִרְאֶ֔ה – “Now shalt thou see”
1“Record Number of Births in Tzfat Hospital” http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/Flash.aspx/139067