Between Destruction and Redemption

by Rabbi Chaim Richman, Sent with Blessings of Consolation and Rebuilding:

This month, the Hebrew month of Menachem Av, literally means “a consoling father.” It is a microcosm of the cycle of destruction and redemption. This past week, we observed the Fast of Tisha B’Av, (the 9th day of Av) marking 1,934 years since the destruction of the Holy Temple. Tisha B’Av is the crescendo that brings to a close Israel’s traditional three-week mourning period for the Holy Temple.

We move in constant cycles, from destruction to redemption. Two days before the date of the Temple’s destruction, we held hands, over 100,000 strong, and made a tikkun (rectification) for the sin of the spies, the “original sin” of the first Tisha B’Av that singled out that night as a date of recurring tragedy (Numbers 14:1). The spies expressed their disdain for the Land of Israel, and broke the nation’s confidence in G-d’s promises. But the participants in the human chain that spanned from Gush Katif to Jerusalem declared that even if our leaders disdain the Land, this chain, the people of Israel themselves, will have to be dismantled before they will allow their G-d-given land to be abandoned.

Just days ago we mourned the destruction of the Holy Temple; yet the day of mourning was followed by the ‘Sabbath of Consolation’: “Comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d” (Isaiah 40). We have already moved from destruction to imminent redemption. This Monday is Tu B’Av, the fifteenth day of Av, one of the happiest days of the year, a day of unique spiritual power. Our despair gives way to dance; we celebrate the potential for the Temple’s immediate restoration. For with G-d anything is possible, anytime and anywhere, and He does not go back on His word. As we read in yesterday’s Torah portion: “For what nation is there so great, that has G-d so near to them, as the L-rd our G-d is in all things that we call upon Him for?” (Deut. 4:7)

Let us assert, in the ears of all those who have a heart to hear, that this season of devastation and the Divine promise of repair is an excellent time to remind the nations of the world of another preeminent Divine promise: that all blessing reaches them exclusively through Israel. Granted, this contention is not popular in today’s world. But it was none other than G-d who made this statement, politically incorrect in the extreme, to our father Abraham, and much to the world’s chagrin, He never took it back:

“And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed through you” (Gen. 12).

There is no mystery or ambiguity in those words. Thus, a thought for the world to consider: Tisha B’Av is the ninth day of the eleventh month of the Hebrew calendar; the original 9/11. The exact measure which the nations mete out to Israel is the measure that they will receive in either Divine blessing or Divine retribution. Thus, for example, insensitivity to Israel’s ongoing scourge of devilish Muslim murderers, and the thousands of Jewish lives that have been claimed or maimed, has now brought the inhuman monster of Islamic terrorists to the doorstep of virtually every nation. Yet when striking against Jews in Israel – including a pregnant woman and her four children – the media still refers to them as “militants” or as an organization’s “military wing” or even “freedom fighters.”

Recently, the World Court condemned Israel for building a protective wall around itself as a violation of international law. But the same court neither condemns nor even bothers to mention the reason for this wall: the continuing calculated murder of Jews by Palestinians. The court thus upheld that the practice of murdering Jews – even a toddler on his way to kindergarten – is not a violation of international law. This could explain the irresistible fact that many of the nations whose members comprise this court have themselves, throughout the years, excelled at murdering Jews.

The wisest of all men already observed that beneath the sun “in the place of justice there is wickedness” (Ecc. 3:16). Sadly, pathetically, Israel’s own Supreme Court also eminently serves the interest of our enemies, and makes it clear that according to its perverse, self-destructive world view, Jewish interests in the Jewish state – in this case, Jewish lives – are secondary to Palestinian economic concerns. Despite the military’s warnings, the Court mandated that the fence’s route be changed to accommodate the economic needs of our children’s murderers. So much for democracy and its august bodies.

Everyone knows that this wall, which the world condemns Israel for building and which costs millions of dollars, will not stop terror. What a waste. How much better it would be, wonderful in fact, if instead of building a ghetto wall down the middle of our Biblical homeland – and instead of evacuating parts of our own country and dismantling Jewish homes – Israel would simply be free to deal with her enemies the way America and other nations deal with theirs. But Israel’s enemies are not on the other side of the world; they are right outside our homes, making ready to break down our doors at this very moment.

G-d’s own un-democratic instructions to Israel for dealing with her enemies are currently being ignored:

“When the L-rd your G-d will bring you to the Land to which you come to posses it, and He will thrust away many nations from before you…

“You will devour all the people that the L-rd your G-d will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them…

“Perhaps you will say in your heart, ‘These nations are more numerous than I; how will I be able to drive them out?’ Do not fear them…The L-rd your G-d will deliver them before you, and will confound them with great confusion, until their destruction…you shall cause their name to perish from under the heaven; no man will stand up against you until you have destroyed them.” (Deut. 7)

On Tisha B’Av, we read this verse in the book of Lamentations (5:18): “For Mount Zion which lies desolate; foxes prowl over it.” These same foxes that prowl over the spot of the Holies of Holies are poised to tear our children asunder. What should our response be? What would yours be?

Everyone wants Israel to give peace a chance, to give up, to make sacrifices for peace. To try anything for peace. Indeed, just as all blessing comes to the world through Israel, so too it is on account of the Divine service in the Holy Temple that peace and prosperity abound, both for Israel and all the nations of the world.

Thus let us consider an alternative peace plan, far more Biblically-based then the current security fence, or the Oslo accords, or the Road Map. Our sages taught that “if only the nations of the world had known how much they needed the Holy Temple, they would have surrounded it with armed fortresses in order to protect it” (Bamidbar Rabbah 1,3). How ironic that the nations condemn Israel, instead of aiding, urging, begging her to rebuild the Temple! How ironic that Israel, desperately lacking that peace, rather than build the Holy Temple, instead builds a wall around herself, a wall that costs millions, which will not provide protection, which the nations condemn. If Israel rebuilds the Temple, the nations themselves will be so grateful that Divine blessing has finally returned in full force to our world, they would build a protective wall around Israel.

But that will not be necessary. “And I will be for it – the word of the L-rd – a wall of fire all around, and for glory will I be in its midst” (Zechariah 2:9).

“Call out, saying, Thus said the L-rd, Master of Legions: I have become zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion, a great zeal; and I am wrathful, a great wrath against the complacent nations, who, when I became slightly wrathful, augmented the evil. Therefore, thus said the L-rd: I have returned to Jerusalem in mercy; My Temple will be rebuilt in it – the word of the L-rd, master of Legions – and a plumb line will be stretched out over Jerusalem. Call out again, saying, Thus said the L-rd, Master of Legions: My cities will once again spread out with bounty; the L-rd will have mercy on Zion once again and He will choose Jerusalem once again.” (Zechariah 1)

Rabbi Chaim Richman

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